Peyote Hunt of the Huicol Indians

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Date: February 19, 2009

NEWS RELEASE   u.s. department of the interior

National Park Service

For Immediate Release                                                       Frank Torres 425-8025

  

"To Find Our Life: The Peyote Hunt of the Huichols of Mexico."

Presentation at CCHP

The National Park Service and Fort Union National Monument announces its’ monthly “Glimpses of the Past” presentation. The program will be held at the Citizen’s Committee for Historic Preservation/Santa Fe Trail Interpretive Center, 116 Bridge St., in Las Vegas, Thursday February 19th at 7:00 p.m.

The presentation by Dr. Peter Furst concerns the peyote use of the Huichol Indians of Mexico. Peyote, a small, spineless cactus whose most important intoxicating constituent is mescaline, has been the sacrament of the Native American Church since the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Millennia earlier it was used in shamanic rituals of Desert Culture hunter-gatherers in the Trans-Pecos region of southern Texas. In pre-Columbian times it was widely used by Mexican Indians, including the Aztecs.

Today it stands at the very center of the intellectual culture and spirituality of the Huichol Indians of the Sierra Madre Occidental. Because it does not grow in their present homeland, each year small parties of these still remarkably traditional Native Americans travel some three hundred miles eastward to the north-central high desert of San Potosi to "hunt" peyote, which they, and, according to them, their ancestors, equate with deer.

The sacred desert in San Luis Potsi where they collect peyote is called Wirikuta. Dr. Furst spent several years studying their religion and ritual, and in 1966 and 1968, accompanied parties of "hikuritamete," or, in Spanish, peyoteros, to observe and record their quest for the divine cactus. The Huichol say, "We go Wirikuta to find our life."  

Peter T. Furst, who received his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1966, is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Latin American Studies at the State University of New York at Albany, and Research Associate at the Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. He has done ethnographic fieldwork in South America and Mexico and is the author some 150 books and articles, among the former Flesh of the Gods: The Ritual Use of Hallucinogens, Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico (with Jill L. Furst); People of the Peyote: Huichol Indian History, Religion and Survival (with Stacy B. Schaefer), Visions of a Huichol Shaman, and most recently, Rock Crystals and Peyote Dreams: Explorations in the Huichol Universe.

The “Glimpses of the Past” series of programs are presented to the public free of charge, in cooperation with the National Park Service and the Citizens Committee for Historic Preservation (CCHP). For more information, you may contact Fort Union National Monument at (505) 425-8025, or visit the park website at www.nps.gov/foun.

 

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