Peyote Exemption Will Remain in Place

March 5, 2019

Vi Waln, Sicangu Scribe

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has no intent to change Title Five of the Law and Order Code exempting possession, transport or ingestion of peyote as a crime for bona fide members of the Native American Church.

Our medicine people fought hard to guarantee our freedom to attend our sacred Native American Church (NAC) ceremonies where peyote is considered a sacrament. There are many Lakota-Dakota-Nakota people, as well as citizens of several other federally recognized tribes, who attend NAC ceremonies where peyote is ingested. Our right to harvest, possess and pray with the sacred medicine known as peyote is protected by tribal, state and federal laws.

Recently, a rumor was started by some unscrupulous individual regarding criminal law surrounding the use of peyote. There are several families on Rosebud who attend NAC ceremony on a regular basis. The gossip prompted a phone call from NAC officials to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Attorney General’s office.

“I have never supported or suggested that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe make the use of Peyote illegal as it pertains the ceremonies our people practice,” stated Janet Routzen, an attorney employed in the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Court system. “It is true I am working on our criminal code, but I fully support ceremonies and practices that our people use to pray and keep the culture. I do not make decisions about the laws, I am only the coordinator for those who do make those decisions, which is the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council.”

Currently, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Law and Order Code includes a clearly defined exemption for NAC members who ingest peyote. Title 5, Chapter 28, Section 12 (5-28-12) provides for a peyote exemption for tribal citizens. It reads “PEYOTE EXEMPTION. The provisions of this Act relating to the possession and distribution of peyote shall not apply to the use of peyote by members of the Native American Church in bona fide religious ceremonies of the church.” (page 98)

In addition, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) Amendments of 1994 were established to protect members of federally recognized Indian tribes who attend Native American Church (NAC) ceremonies and ingest peyote. The AIRFA also allows members of federally recognized tribes to obtain permits to buy, possess, and transport peyote for use in bona fide ceremonies.

According to Wikipedia, Section 2 of the Act speaks to the “Traditional Indian Religious Use of the Peyote Sacrament,” and reads in part: (c) For purposes of this section – (1) the term ‘Indian’ means a member of an Indian tribe; (2) the term ‘Indian tribe’ means any tribe, band, nation, pueblo, or other organized group or community of Indians. . .(3) the term ‘Indian religion’ means any religion – (A) which is practiced by Indians, and (B) the origin and interpretation of which is from within a traditional Indian culture or community; and (4) the term ‘State’ means any State of the United States, and any political subdivision thereof.”

The statute expressly and exclusively provides an exemption to federal and state drug laws for members of federally recognized Indian tribes who use peyote in traditional Indian religious practices.

More information on the Peyote Exemption for the Native American Church is posted on the Department of Justice website

In addition, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994 (PUBLIC LAW 103-344 [H.R. 4230]; October 6, 1994) are available to view online.

South Dakota Codified Law 34-20B-14 (17) provides additional exemption for peyote. “Peyote, except that when used as a sacramental in services of the Native American church in a natural state which is unaltered except for drying or curing and cutting or slicing, it is hereby excepted.”

One must be an enrolled citizen of a federally recognized tribe to either possess peyote or attend NAC services. Concerned NAC members can rest assured that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe has absolutely no intent to change the Law and Order Code eliminating the peyote exemption.




Published by Vi Waln


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