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Texas Matters: Understanding Peyote

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David Martin Davies
Peyote growing in South Texas

It’s the most misunderstood cactus in Texas – Peyote. For thousands of years before the arrival of the European it was a sacred plant for the original peoples of North America. But today it remains an illegal controlled substance and the future of peyote is in doubt.

In American popular culture, peyote is a substance that is linked to the mystical – metaphysical and the bizarre. In the most recent edition of the video game Grand Theft Auto the player seeks out peyote plants and gets the virtual experience of grand hallucinations and animal vision quests.

That’s not what peyote is about. Anthropologist Stacy Schaefer has spent her career studying peyote and the native people’s connection to it. She is a professor emerita of anthropology at California State University, Chico, and she has written the book “Amada’s Blessings from the Peyote Gardens of South Texas.” It’s published by the University of New Mexico Press.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.