Shirley signs legislation allowing peyote for ceremonial purposes on reservation
WINDOW ROCK--Following a solemn but joyful all-night ceremonial in a sacred tipi set up in front of the Navajo Nation Museum, Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. signed legislation on July 28 that allows Navajos to possess and transport the medicine peyote, known in the Navajo language as azeŽ, for ceremonial purposes on the Navajo Nation.
Wearing his red and blue prayer shawl around his shoulders and flanked by First Lady Vikki Shirley and leaders of AzeŽ Bee Nahagha of the DinŽ Nation, the president thanked Navajo leaders of the Navajo Nation Council for their foresight, respect and understanding of the deep spiritual nature of azeŽ.
Before signing, Shirley told about 45 people gathered inside the tipi that the legislation "is a continued preservation of our way of life, continued preservation of our herb and a continued preservation of us as a people."
He said the practice of AzeŽ Bee Nahagha "is a sacred way of life."
The legislation amends Title 17 of the Navajo Code relating to public safety, health and judiciary. The Navajo Nation Council passed the legislation on July 22 by a vote of 63 in favor to one opposed.
David Clark, president of AzeŽ Bee Nahagha of the DinŽ Nation, said there was a lot of meaning and importance in the Navajo Nation Council's action.
"They showed they wanted to protect, preserve and show respect for this medicine, the instruments and this ceremonial way," he said. "Last night, we talked about a new beginning. We meant the sacredness of this peyote, this fireplace and the holiness of it."
Clark noted that four presidents attended the evening meeting; himself,
President Shirley, DinŽ College President Ferlin Clark and Andrew Tso, the president of the northern branch of AzeŽ Bee Nahagha of the DinŽ Nation.
Geraldine Clark, Clark's wife, said the legislation renews the message that people should be serious with the medicine, using it only when they attend its ceremony, and not be involved with recreation abuse of drugs or alcohol.
"People need to meditate to find direction to find themselves," she said. "Young people and adults who are abusing, we want them to get their priorities straight in life with the Great Spirituality. One way of finding it is to meditate, continue to pray and be thankful for the creation. That's how to find faith."
Dr. Wilson Aronilth, the roadman, or leader of last night's meeting, said that he was honored to have been asked to participate in such a historic moment and to be able to express himself to the Creator.
Navajo Nation Council delegates who co-sponsored the legislation included Lorenzo Bedonie, Tom LaPahe, Kenneth Maryboy, Leroy Thomas, Katherine Bennally and Wallace Charley.
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