Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative
Empowering Indigenous communities to reconnect with, regenerate, and conserve their sacred Peyote medicine
The IPCI conservation effort exists to sustain the spiritual practices of Indigenous Peoples for generations to come; promoting health, well-being, and native cultural revitalization through sovereignty and sustainability of the Sacred Peyote plant and the lands on which it grows
Birth of a Prayer
10,000 years ago
Human partnership with Peyote emerges as far back as 10,000 years in the deserts of what is now called Mexico. Tribes in Mexico have relied on Peyote ever since, including the Wixaritari (Huichol), Yaqui, Cora, and Raramuri (Tarahumara) and others.
During the peak of cultural devastation and genocide of Native peoples in the U.S., Peyote traveled north along trade routes and became adopted widely in spiritual ceremony, serving to fortify Indigenous identity, spiritual connection, and provide healing from ongoing colonial trauma.
Families from many tribes pilgrimaged to the peyote gardens in south Texas,
sometimes taking several weeks,
making offerings and harvesting medicine to bring back to their communities.
In order to protect the sacramental use of Peyote, Native American tribal groups began incorporating as individual Native American Churches in 1918. In the following decades the religion grew significantly, however the legal rights of Indian people to use Peyote were plagued by non-native misunderstanding and a patchwork of inconsistent laws and court cases.
Finally, in 1994, Congress enacted the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994 which clearly and specifically protect the rights of members of federally recognized tribes to use, possess, and transport Peyote for their traditional religious purposes throughout the US.
Due to growing evidence and concern of the decline of Peyote, the Native American Church of North America (NACNA) commissioned the "Peyote Research Project" through the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the Walker Research Group.
Peyote Research Project 1
formally documented the decline and risk to the peyote medicine, habitat, and native access. Quality and numbers had dramatically decreased.
Peyote Research Project 2
identified strategies recommended by National Council of Native American Churches, including securing sovereign land.
February - Travel to Texas continues - building relationships and developing conservation strategies.
October - The National Council of Native American Churches gathers in Laredo and with support from the Riverstyx Foundation, purchases 605 acres in the medicine gardens to establish a Peyote preserve and spiritual homesite.
November - The National Council, their families, and spiritual advisors honor the land with a first ceremony on the Spiritual Homesite, launching IPCI through prayer.
June - The Indigenous Peyote Conservation Initiative officially becomes a 501c(3) organization in Texas, serving all native Peyote lands and peoples, from Mexico, the U.S., and Canada.
IPCI hosts two pilgrimages and ceremonies on the '605' land. Many NAC members were able to reconnect with the medicine as it grows in the earth, many for the first time.
April - Aligned with our mission of serving future generations, the first IPCI Peyote harvest was conducted by the children of NACNA and Azee Bee Nahgha Dine Nation and their parents.
June - Two conservation managers were hired to host pilgrimages, protect the medicine, initiate conservation harvests and distribution, and oversee the development of our Spiritual Homesite.
July - Board approved architectural plans for ceremony sites, a welcome center and museum, housing, and facilities for youth engagement and overnights.
November - Indigenous communities from the North and South of the Rio Grande gather in historic solidarity to conserve the Peyote way of life.
Navajo Region Representative
Steven Benally is an enrolled Dine' from Sweetwater, Arizona. As a leader and peyote practitioner, Mr. Benally supports his people in maintaining their community health, way of life and legal access to their peyote spiritual traditions. He helps organize the Annual Spiritual Pilgrimage for his Dine people to the native home of their medicine in the desert. He is a founding member of IPCI. Former Azee' Bee Nahagha of Dine Nation President.
Arlen Lightfoot was born and raised in Oklahoma where he graduated high school and attended college at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, OK with a AS degree. Mr. Lightfoot is a United States Navy Veteran, serving during Vietnam. He has been a lifelong member of the NAC Otoe chapter in Red Rock, OK and also serves as the Vice Commander for the Otoe Veteran's Organization. Former NAC of Oklahoma President.
Consulting Attorney on Native American Law
James is a national expert on the Native American Church, Mr. Botsford is one of the primary authors of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994, has worked nationally and in Wisconsin on the re-emergence of Indigenous Justice, Child Welfare Laws and as a champion of numerous Indian rights issues since his law career began in 1984. Though retired, Mr. Botsford has committed his expertise to this important endeavor.
Native American Rights Fund
Senior attorney at NARF, Mr. Moore has been supporting Native American Church of North America since 1983, providing legal protections for access to their peyote sacrament as well as water rights, sacred land rights, and repatriation of human remains. Mr. Moore’s legal experience and relationship to the NAC is crucial to the peyote conservation efforts.
Miriam Volat, M.S.
Javier Ignacio Martinez Sanchez M.S.
Javier has worked on Wirixuta for over 20 years on conservation of the sacred peyote territory. Javier has worked with communities to support their cultural identity, navigate sustainable tourism and facilitate safe pilgrimage for the Wixaritari (Huichol) indigenous groups. Mr. Sanchez’ research has explored the relationships between various stakeholders of the sacred peyote, including indigenous groups, government and ranchers.
Refina Sander Smith
IPCI Conservation Committee
Refina takes care of the grandmothers return and watches over the land in S. Texas. She has a 30 year career in the US Airforce with active duty overseas. Refina brings organizational and contracting skills to IPCI, supporting developments on the land.
Mr. Swift is a trained clinical psychologist who has collaborated with over 70 projects addressing healthy society through working with stigmatized populations and issues. He is committed to his grandmothers vision of creating beauty and protection of sacred species through philanthropy, and conservation of sacred medicines used for recovery from trauma and for spiritual connection in indigenous populations.
TT. Cody Swift, M.A.
IPCI EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Ms. Volat M.S. is a researcher, educator, organizer, facilitator and ecologist with a passion for soils and nutrient cycles. She works Nationally and Internationally to increase health in policy and community design. She has served the Board of Directors since November of 2017 in anyway she can to ensure the conservation of this medicine and precious way of life.
Sandor Iron Rope
NAC of South Dakota, President
Oglala Lakota Oyate from Pine Ridge South Dakota. Mr. Iron Rope received his B.A. in Human Services and American Indian Studies from the Black Hills State University. He serves as President of the NAC of South Dakota and former chair of NAC of North America. He is also the executive director of ‘TTO’, a non-profit committed to peyote conservation and the preservation of Lakota Culture and Health.
Andrew Tso has worked for decades to support the Native American Church legally and spiritually as the way to protect the indigenous way of life. Mr Tso, aside from his service for the NACNA has worked to protect native land and water from oil company activities in the Aneth area. Former President of NAC of North America. Andrew is a founding Board Member of IPCI.
Board and staff
Our core strategy for addressing the peyote crisis in Texas and Mexico is creating land access for ecological harvest (promoting regrowth), re-establishment of plant populations (replanting), and a system of conservation management and distribution (assessments, rancher incentives, & policy), fundamentally tied to indigenous sovereignty.