Native American Church is officially 100 years old on October 10, 2018

Excerpt from the 1918 Church Charter and Peyote Religion: A History, Chapter 8 –  Efforts to Pass a Federal Law by Omer C. Stewart

KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENT, That we, Mack Haag, and Sidney White Crane of the Cheyenne Tribe of Indians, Charles W. Daily, George Pipestem and Charles E. Moore, members of the Otoe Tribe of Indians, Frank Eagle of the Ponca Tribe of Indians, Wilbur Peawa and Mam Sookwat, members of the Comanche Tribe of Indians, Kiowa Charley of the Kiowa Tribe of Indians, and Apache Ben of the [Kiowa-] Apache Tribe of Indians, all residents of the State of Oklahoma, do hereby associate ourselves together to form a religious and benevolent association under the laws of the State of Oklahoma, and do hereby certify:


The name of this incorporation shall be and is “NATIVE AMERICAN CHURCH.”

The first officers of the Central Church were Frank Eagle (Ponca), president; Mack Haag (Cheyenne), vice-president; George Pipestem (Oto), secretary; and Louis McDonald (Ponca), treasurer.  For the first twenty-five years about thirty people from seven to eight tribes occupied all elected offices and the five or six appointed positions.  As well as the member of the original general council, they included Alfred Wilson (Cheyenne), James W. Waldo (Kiowa), Ned E. Bruce (Kiowa), Edgar McCarthy (Osage), Frank W. Cayou (Omaha), and McKinley Eagle (Ponca).  Annual meetings were specified and some were probably held.

The only record of an early meeting available to me is that of 1925, which included a report for 1923 and 1924.  Most of those attending the “convention” were from Oklahoma, and all elected to office were Oklahoma residents.  Previously unreported Oklahoma tribes to attend were the Yuchi, the Shawnee, the Sac and Fox of Oklahoma, the Caddo, and the Wichita.  In 1924, Mac Haag had been elected president and Alfred Wilson was appointed a special delegate to Washington, D.C., to work with the Oklahoma Congressman to defeat the special appropriation with which the antipeyotists hoped to combat peyote distribution and also be on guard against peyote prohibition laws.  By that time, nine bills had been introduced into Congress.  In 1925, President Haag reported that there were twelve hundred to fifteen hundred peyotists.  Visitors from outside Oklahoma were welcomed.  Orin Curry, a Ute Indian from the Uintah-Ouray Reservation in eastern Utah, probably traveled the greatest distance.  Utah’s 1917 law against peyote had led to fines and jail terms, and he asked for help.  Two Omaha Indians from Nebraska declared peyotism had helped them conquer alcohol.  One claimed peyote could not be harmful because he had passed the Army physical examination although he had used peyote for years.  Clearly, the Native American Church was becoming a truly pan-Indian organization and the legal forum to deal with antipeyotism.

Undoubtedly, incorporation of the Native American Church helped to prevent national legislation against peyote and strengthened the status of peyote in Oklahoma and elsewhere.  No serious attempt was made again to prohibit peyote in Oklahoma.  Also, since incorporation in one State carries over into all others, unless a State specifically outlaws the organization, the Native American Church became legally incorporated in all States, which had not legally prohibited it.  In 1918, only Utah, Colorado, and Nevada had done so.