A Peyote Story

from the collection of W. C. McKern

Original manuscript pages: | 330 | 331 | 332 | 333 |

(330) I started it after me and my first wife had parted. I had a boy about twelve years old at the time of the split up. My uncle said, "Go away somewhere, or else your wife will treat you badly. Go somewhere, because I don't like you to be so treated." So I placed the boy in a government school and went to Oklahoma. I started eating peyote the same year as John Rave with an Oto Indian. One time, around February or March, this uncle died. About the same time, a brother also died. I had bad feelings in my mind because of these deaths. One time I ate peyote with the Tongaway. John Sherwin (?), a Tongaway, (331) was there. He gave me forty large peyote buttons. He said, "Whenever you have hard times or bad feelings, brother, take some of these. They will help you." But I did not believe this. One time I went over again to the Oto Indians. I got there about ten o'clock at night. I had to travel two minutes from town after getting off the train. I went to stay with Dad Jones. When I got there, white people all told us that all the Oto had gone over to the peyote meeting with the Pawnee, so I found no one at home. I built a fire and slept beside it outside. Others had told me that if I ate this medicine, it would make me crazy. They said it would make me see big snakes and animals. That is what they had told me. Charlie Davis, however, used to say, "Whenever, my brother, you have hard times, you should pray to Christ. He will help you."

Peyote Buttons

So I went back to the Tongaway Indians. Early in the morning, I awoke, just before daylight. Then I began to eat the medicine. First I ate eight of them. The train was due in Red Rock about ten o'clock. I got to the town pretty early. I decided to go to the next station and wait for the train. When I got there, it was still early. As I traveled, (332) I still ate medicine. So I went farther on. Two or three miles farther on there was a dry creek. I stood there by the bridge, and I saw lots of wild gourds growing by the track. I picked some of those gourds and, cutting them open, took the seeds out. Some of them broke, but I got all the seeds out of one without breaking it. Then I cut a handle out of a young cottonwood tree. I made "seeds" out of sandstone. Still I ate the medicine. I didn't know my peyote songs, but I shook the gourd. Then I saw some rocks about 300-400 yards from the track. I went over there. It was sandstone, rather flat on top. This was wild country on 101 Ranch. I was thinking about the stories I had heard about seeing big snakes and animals. I wanted to see if it was so. So I decided to stay over night at this big rock. So I stayed awake all night at this rock, but I did not see anything.

Next morning, I took the train for home. When I got home, I had previously sent for the money from my people, and a $60 check was waiting. So I went to the Pawnee meeting with that money. (333) The Oto, Sauk and Iowa were also at this Pawnee meeting. Tom Morgan was a leader. He had long hair. He was dressed only in leggings and had white clay all over his breast. His hair was hanging loose. I stayed there about a week. All summer I traveled around amongst these Indians, whenever they had a peyote meeting.

After that, I returned to my country and got my boy. I got a carpenter job in Oklahoma, and every winter I went there. I put my boy in school there.1

Commentary. "I started it" — eating peyote in connection with the rites of the Native American Church. It should be mentioned here, as can be seen in the original MS, that the story starts off talking about the "informant," and continues a ways in the third person; but after a few sentences, it shifts to the first person, making it clear that the informant is telling this story about himself. Therefore, I changed the third person narrative of the first several sentences into a first person narrative to match the rest of the story.

Manuel Almagro Rivas  
The Molecular Structure
of Mescaline

"peyote" — a cactus, Lophophora williamsii, whose range is primarily restricted to northern Mexico, where it is called peyotl (in Nahuatl). The cactus has no spines and forms what are called "buttons," which are harvested for their psychoactive components. Peyote is generally eaten, and occasionally soaked in water which is, after an appropriate period, drunk. It has a bitter taste, and is usually taken as a large capsule in association with a drug like Dramamine in order to suppress nausea. Its active psychedelic constituent is mescaline, which in my youth, in and out of the Army, I have taken myself. Its effects are typical of other psychedelics like LSD and psilocybine, inducing periods of fascination augmented by illusions of ordinary colors becoming iridescent, sometimes accompanied with apparent motion or waving. Higher doses can lead to hallucinations. It is not surprising, therefore, that peyote was used by shamans in a number of Mexican cultures.

"gourds" — the gourd is to be used in creating a rattle to make the peyote eating a proper rite, as it ought to be done with an accompaniment of music.

Comparative Material. ...

Links: ...

Stories: about the Native American Church: White Shirt, The Death of Henry Harris’ Daughter, A Peyote Vision, Peyote as an Evil Spirit, The Arapaho Girl, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; mentioning sacred gourd rattles: North Shakes His Gourd, East Shakes the Messenger, The Brown Squirrel, South Seizes the Messenger, Holy One and His Brother, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth; mentioning the Oto: Ioway & Missouria Origins, Little Priest's Game, Introduction; mentioning the Ioway: Ioway & Missouria Origins, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, Migistéga’s Magic, Little Priest's Game, Introduction; mentioning the Tonkawa: A Peyote Vision, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; mentioning the Pawnee: First Contact (v. 2), They Owe a Bullet, Little Priest's Game, Gatschet's Hocank hit’e; mentioning the Sauk (Sac, Sagi): The First Fox and Sauk War, Mijistéga and the Sauks, Black Otter's Warpath, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I (v. 2), Annihilation of the Hocągara II, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, Little Priest's Game, Gatschet's Hocank hit’e (St. Peet ...), Introduction.

Themes: ...


1 W. C. McKern, Winnebago Notebook (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1927) 330-333.