Peyote Healing Chants

Healing chants of the Native American Church

Canyon Records
Sung by Ralph Turtle

Two types of meetings are held by the Native American Church. The first is the regular prayer meetings and the second is the special prayer meeting held for healing purposes. The chants on this recording represent this second type of meeting. Healing is one of the prime reasons for peyote or Native American Church meetings. The reputation of peyote's curative powers preceded the use of peyote and created fertile ground for the spread of Peyotism from Mexico into Texas in the 1870's, northward across the Plains into Canada and west to Navajoland.
Meetings are usually held on Saturday nights. This has no religious significance but is an accommodation to the white man's work week since often the prayer and healing ceremonies last throughout the night and Sunday gives a chance for sleep before returning to the job on Monday. In an emergency, healing meetings can be held on any night. Healing ceremonies follow the same general pattern as regular meetings, with prayers or general welfare with the addition of special healing chants selected on the basis of the patient's illness and his needs. A healing ceremony is smaller than the regular prayer meeting, usually consisting of the patient or patients, the leader or Road Man, a few respected church members, the patient's family and sometimes a few close friends even though they may not be members of the Native American Church.
Prayers are addressed to God asking for the recovery of the sick person. Everyone prays for the general welfare of the world and special prayers for the patient. Tea is brewed from peyote for the patient who also eats the peyote if he is able. The others present also eat peyote in the name of the ill person. Cure is believed to be effected through the combined power of peyote, the prayers of those present, and the strict adherences to the ritual.
The Native American Church is an inter-tribal Indian religion which is developed in the last century and includes tribal traditions going back into antiquity long before the arrival of Europeans in the Americas. The present day Native American Church developed from three basic sources. The use of the peyote button from the small spineless peyote cactus, native to Mexico and Southern Texas, came from Mexico. The Lipan and Mescalero Apache are considered the traditional links between the Mexican Indian peyotists and the Kiowa and Comanche of Texas and Oklahoma.
The the healing or curing ritual were added traditional elements of Plains religion - although not always the same form or combination - including the all important vision which was made easily available through peyote. This religion spread from tribe to tribe across the length and breadth of the Plains with minor variations occurring due to differences in the tribal frame of reference.
Christianity formed the third source of the modern day Native American Church. The early peyote religion was free of Christian influences, but now Christian symbolism and interpretations are frequent. Some tribal peyote churches were influenced gradually over a long period of time by Christian beliefs directly, while other tribal peyote groups assimilated the fused body of traditional Indian belief and Christianity from other tribes. One of the early groups to have a high infusion of Christianity was the Otoe Church of the Firstborn.
In 1918 several independent tribal churches joined together to form the Native American Church, a formal non-profit corporation for the purpose of presenting a strong united front to meet the hostility of the outside world. Several states were attempting to outlaw the use and possession of peyote through formal lawmaking. The organized Native American Church was better able to lead the way for the smaller local groups in court cases over the legality of the use of peyote in prayer meetings. The Church's arguments are based on constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and on differences of opinion between the Church and states on the effects of peyote as it is used in prayer meetings.

Peyote chants are generally uniform from one tribe to another which make them unique in American Indian music. They are also unlike any of the traditional songs of the Plains Indians where the Native American Church developed. The high degree of tension, breaks, quavers, and accents typical of Plains music are absent. They are sung in quiet unstressed style similar to the tribes of the Sonoran Desert and parts of Mexico. The drum and rattle are played at a constant tempo and beat in eighth notes to create the impression of a rapid tempo. A majority of peyote chants are sung within a range of a fifth to an octave and as with most Indian music have a descending melodic pattern. A phrase is usually composed of several small downward intervals with larger upward intervals occurring between phrases. There are a few variation which are due to some tribal differences in musical style during the early formative years of the peyote ritual in the 1870's and 1880's.

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Native Words



Peyote Healing Chant 1 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 2 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 3 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 4 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 5 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 6 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 7 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 8 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 9 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 10 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 11 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 12 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 13 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 14 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 15 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 16 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 17 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 18 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 19 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 20 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 21 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 22 Cheyenne
Peyote Healing Chant 23 Cheyenne