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Peyote Songs of the Native American Church

Peyote Songs of the Native American Church

by Primeaux & Mike

Peyote songs, accompanied by rattle and water drum, are performed as part of the ceremonies of the Native American Church,. These songs were created and sung (some with Navajo and Sioux words, some with vocables) by two of today's leading peyote singers, Verdell Primeaux of the Sioux and Johnny Mike of the Navajo people.

About the Native American Church

The Native American Church or Peyote Church, had its origins in pre-Columbian Mexico. The peyote Cactus (Aztec “peyotl”) grows in north central Mexico and Texas. Since the mid-l9th century an intertribal religion, philosophy and ritual has developed around “Father Peyote” among many Native Americans in the United States. The sober ceremony includes long prayers, exhortations on right living by Church leaders, and quiet meditative songs in sets of four, accompanied by a special rattle and water-drum.

A large, perfect peyote plant representing Father Peyote is placed at the apex of a crescent shaped altar in the tipi where the ceremony takes place. Small portions of other peyote plants are passed periodically to the celebrants and eaten as a sacra-ment. The cactus produces a sense of well-being and, in many instances, private visions in brilliant colors. Some participants hear Father Peyote answering their prayers, giving advice and teaching them songs.

There are four special songs, known intertribally, which are sung by the leader at the beginning, midnight, dawn and close of the ceremony. Hundreds of other peyote songs are constantly being created and passed from one community to another as they are learned at meetings, informal gatherings or from recordings.

The Peyote song style, with or without harmonies, is quite different in sound from most other Native American singing. Its quiet, introspective quality contrasts with the robust virtuosity of many of the other kinds of Native American songs. A characteristic feature is the closing formula, “he-ne-ne-yo-we,” all on the tonic or bass note of the melody. Another unique element is the sound of the drum. The water inside is in constant motion and produces a special resonance. The player’s thumb, pressed against the drum head, holds the tone at a constant pitch which then drops a fifth or more when the pressure is relaxed between songs.

Peyote meetings resemble other Native American ceremonies in their nature, imagery and cosmic symbolism of fire, water, earth and sky (the body of the drum is the earth and the diaphragm, the sky). The meetings celebrate the unity of humankind with each other and with the earth on which we live.

47 minutes — ©1997



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1 Four songs sung by Verdell Primeaux
Vocables only
2 Four songs sung by Johnny Mike
Vocables only
3 Four songs sung by Verdell Primeaux
Vocables only
4 Four songs sung in Navajo by Johnny Mike
Song 1 - Pity me Creator, God, I'm journeying that road of life that leads to salvation,
Song 2 - vocables only
Song 3 - vocables only
Song 4 - Our Heavenly Father, bless our church
5 Four songs sung by Verdell Primeaux
Vocables only
6 Four songs sung in Navajo by Johnny Mike
Song 1 - You are the only way so that's why we look toward you, Holy Peyote
Song 2 - It is a holy morning and we see the horizon in the dawn, this morning it is a holy morning
Song 3 - Be in front of us, be all around us, Peyote, because you are hol
7 Four songs sung by Verdell Primeaux
Vocables only
8 Four songs sung by Johnny Mike
Song 1 - Vocables only
Song 2 - The only way, our Native American Church
Song 3 - If you live with this peyote, it's the beauty way of living here on earth. If you live by this peyote, you will have everlasting life
Song 4 - It is a beautiful roa
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