Culture

The use of peyote by the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas

There was a lot of peyote in Lipan country, both in Mexico and in Texas. It grows around the Rio Grande near the border.

The Lipan were not the first people who found out about peyote. It was learned first by other people and later the Lipan learned about it too. The way I heard it, the Carrizo people started it.

One Lipan man heard the sound of a drum. When he heard that he wentover to the place from which the sound was coming. This was near morning, when the morning light was breaking. He followed the sound. He got there. He stood a little distance away. Some people were there. They saw him. He stood there. One motioned to him to come over and asked what he wanted. He replied that he wanted to watch what they were doing. They motioned him in. He came forward and lifted the log which acted as the door (the gate) and entered. They placed him at the south of the “door” next to a woman. The leader of the meeting was the one who invited him in. He sat there and watched what they were doing.

Right in there they had a wooden bowl. The peyote was mashed up in there with water. Some drank of this. And they had buttons in there too for those who wanted to use the buttons. They had the peyote both ways.

When the peyote was passed, it began at the door with the woman at the south. The Lipan did not take any. He was just there to visit and watch. No matter who asked for it or where he sat, the bowl or the buttons had always to be passed from the southeast around to him.

All the ground had been swept clean, and all over the ground was covered with sage. These people who were carrying on this ceremony were the Carrizo. They were not in a tipi but in a clearing out in the open. The fire was in the center. A big peyote was back of this, to the west of it. Sticks were laid around to form a little circle which stood for the tipi.

The men were all naked except for a gee-string. The two women at the door were dressed differently. The one at the south of the door was covered with a red blanket. It was fastened at the top with a red feather of a flicker. The woman on the north side of the door also had a red blanket, but it was fastened at the top with a woodpecker’s feather.

The leader sat in back, at the west. Toward morning he told his men, “All right now. We have a visitor here. He came here to see what we are doing. Now all you men do your best; do it in the right way. Do no foolish things, so that when he goes home to his people he will tell them what we saw and what we did in a good way.”

They were getting visions now. The Lipan was watching pretty closely. The leader told his men to entertain the Lipan with their power. The leader began to do it himself too. He knelt down. He breathed hard four times and the fourth time out of his mouth came downy feathers. They floated around and covered the inside. The Lipan could hardly see the people in there. He watched and pretty soon, while all the other feathers were in the air, just one feather fell to the ground. The leader sucked in his breath just once and all the feathers except this one which was on the ground came back into his mouth.

The leader made a sign to the Lipan to take that one on the ground. He said, “Keep it. Some day when your people eat peyote like this you can use it. It will remind you of me, your friend.”

After the leader did the magical trick with the feathers, the other men did all sorts of magical tricks. One made a bear appear, another a turtle, another a buffalo. They did many wonderful things, more than we could mention.

Among the Carrizo the peyote leader speaks. He says, “I’m going to hold a meeting tonight.” Then he takes charge of it and sees that all goes in the right way. It is just like a man holding a party. He has charge of it then. It was this kind of a man who showed the Lipan all about peyote. He was the leader, the one who arranged the meeting. The Lipan learned it from these people, the Carrizo.

After he got back, the Lipan kept his knowledge secret. Finally someone noticed that he was eating peyote and told him he was eating something very dangerous. Then he told the people of his knowledge and they began to use it. Since then it has been known by the Lipan.

The Mescalero already had the ceremony before I came here to the Mescalero Reservation. The Mescalero used to go down and meet the Lipan. That is how it started. They got it from the Lipan.

The Lipan learned it from the Carrizo before they had had any experience with white people or Mexicans. They were by themselves then. The Tonkawa got it from the Carrizo people too.

The eastern tribes hardly know how to use peyote. They got it recently. They use dancing songs in there now.

The Tonkawa tell of a time some Indians from the north came with peyote. The Tonkawa already knew it, but they kept quiet. These Indians said, “Let’s put up a ceremony.” “What kind?” “Oh, a medicine ceremony.” “With what?” “Peyote.” Then they had a big meeting. The northern people said, “It’s this way, this way.” They started with their gourd and drum. But they could not do much. The songs were about half and half. It did not sound like much. Then it was the turn of a Tonkawa to sing. They did it right. They shook the rattle. They sang four songs in the right way. The others were ashamed. They stopped at midnight and went on their way.

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