Religious Freedom and the Native American Church

by Jim Northrup
News From Indian Country

My son Jim is a roadman for the Native American Church. That is not my system of religious beliefs but I have seen the positive changes in his life since he began practicing that way of believing. As the old saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. If you stopped by Jim’s house and were hungry he would give you the last of his pudding.

Jim wanted to have a birthday meeting for his oldest son Jim. He asked for permission to use the Sawyer Community Center. Under the previous administration his requests were always granted. This time his request was denied because in the words of the RBC, the Native American Church is “not from around here.”

Let us look a little closer at this statement. The Big Drum ceremonies that used to be held in Sawyer were not from around here. Those songs and ceremonies came from the Dakota people. The Catholic Church is not from around here either. I think that came from Rome, Italy, with the Jesuits. The other Christian religions practiced on this Reservation come from Germany and England, I believe.

In pursuing his request Jim tried to inform members of the RBC about the Native American Church. In my research I learned there are between 250,000 to 400,000 members of that church in the United States. Also I learned that the U.S. Congress said members of the Native American Church were the only people legally allowed to use peyote.

The Catholic Church recently used the Cloquet Community Center to hold their annual bazaar as they have in years past. The message I am getting from this RBC is American white guy’s religions are good and the Native American Church is bad. I do know the reservation offices are closed down for Christmas and Easter, two Christian holidays. The rez store and casinos stay open however.

The Executive Director of the reservation, Mike Himango, informed my son he could not use any of the reservation facilities to hold his prayer meeting. I told Jim he could use my house for his birthday meeting.

We moved the furniture out of the living room and kitchen and about 30 people showed up for this meeting of the Native American Church. The people prayed and sang all night. In the morning they ate together. What is wrong with singing and praying? I believe my son’s rights were violated under the Indian Religious Freedom Act and the Indian Civil Rights Act by the Reservation Business Committee. What the hell is going on here?


It has been over three months since I quit buying my beloved Camel cigarettes. I quit smoking with the assistance of a prescription drug called Chantix. I still get the urge to smoke but don’t care if I do or not.

I have smoked cigarettes at funerals, even tried smoking a cigarette for pleasure. It wasn’t a pleasure anymore.

The drug Chantix has had a side effect on me. I have some really wild and vivid dreams. The dreams are always good for a laugh when I tell my wife about them the next morning.

I am almost done with my course of treatment with the Chantix and wonder what will happen with my dreams after I quit taking the little blue pills.

The wheeze I used to have is gone. I am not coughing as much and it seems like I can smell things better.


Reports of my recent heart attack were greatly exaggerated. As part of my annual physical at the Minoayaawin Clinic I took an EKG test. There was one squiggly line on the chart the medical people didn’t like. They thought I had a silent heart attack. They arranged a series of heart tests for me. It took a couple of weeks to get them scheduled and completed. I wore a heart monitor for 24 hours, had an ultrasound reading on my heart. That one showed no damage to the valves and walls. I was also supposed to take a stress test at a hospital in Duluth.

The man taking the test in front of me died during his stress test. They asked if I still wanted to go through with it. I said sure, what are the odds of two people dying back to back during the tests. I didn’t study for that stress test but passed anyway. They took pictures of my heart from many different angles. I met with a cardiologist after the tests were done. She reviewed the tests and told me I didn’t have a heart attack. She instructed me in what symptoms to watch for. I got another EKG as a going away present. And as Cher used to sing… and the beat goes on.

Mii iw.


The views in this column belong to the writer alone, they are not meant to represent this newspaper, this Reservation, the RBC, the Fond du Lac voters or anyone else.

Comments and bingo packs can be sent to FdL Follies, PO Box 16, Sawyer, MN 55780-0016

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