Native American Church Ceremony on Red Pheasant


An all-night ritual took place near the Red Pheasant reserve featuring 15 members of the Native American Church, 13 members of the Stony Reserve (Alberta) and Red Pheasant Band, and peyote. Non-Indigenous observers were also present.

Peyote, a hallucinogenic plant, was being transported into Canada from the US. As it was relatively unknown by authorities and not classified as a narcotic, posessors of peyote could not be prosecuted under the provisions of the federal Narcotics Act. In 1941, the Department attempted to control the import of peyote into Canada by requesting police surveillance of known users and by investigating the possibility of prosecution under the Customs Act or Drug and Food Act. Police monitoring was considerd the most effective means of control, since the use of peyote was limited to a few reserves. Government officials did not have any legal authority to suppress Aboriginal spiritual practices, although they did have the power to hinder the use of peyote. This created a legal, religious and moral debate regarding the rights of Aboriginal people to use peyote in their ceremonies, and the role of the Canadian state in control of the substance and rituals. Prohibition of peyote and Indigenous spiritual practices represented a privileging of Christian religious institutions as being the primary expression of legitimate spirituality in Saskatchewan - a Eurocentric belief that emanated from the Doctrine of Discovery and resulted in the oppression of Indigenous philosophy from Contact onwards.

Saskatoon Star Pheonix, "White Men Witness Indian Peyote Rites," 13 October 1956.