Konrad Ventana

Konrad Ventana

Konrad Ventana on the Peyote Road

“Those of your Indian brothers who were recognized as having the ability to lead others along this sacred path are known as “Road Men,” on a road where peyote is chief. It is important for you to know—and therefore for me to tell you—that you are nearing the end of your brief apprenticeship; and it is important for you to know more about those who walked this road before you. As remarkable as this may seem, and as awkward as this may appear to your logical mind, there are elements of your life that you will not be able to assimilate until you realize just who you are, and what you are meant to do.”

During breakfast, which Thunder briefly enjoyed outside on the porch, Professor Yesteryear described the life and contributions of a Road Man named Quanah Parker. He stopped eating and became very serious when he spoke of this honorable elder of the Peyote Religion. This man, he explained, was mortally wounded in battle with federal troops but was healed by peyote, which contains a number of natural antibiotics, administered to him by a Coahuiltecan Indian curandera, who further instructed Quanah in the proper manner in which to run peyote ceremonies. During his recuperation, Quanah reported seeing an influential vision of Jesus Christ, which prompted the incorporation of additional Christian practices and relics into the “Half-Moon” and “Cross-Fire” ceremonies that would follow. In a point for contemplation, Professor Yesteryear offered a personal quotation from Quanah Parker: The white man goes into his church and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his tipi and talks with Jesus.

Professor Yesteryear paused momentarily and then continued. “Quanah taught his people that Sacred Peyote Medicine was a sacrament given to all peoples by the Creator and that it was to be used with pure water when seeking communion. The first important point is the purposeful extension of the term medicine—well beyond the pharmacological, healing arts and into the realm of spiritual healing and vitality. Secondly, the emphasis on water, not wine, in the ceremony recognizes the destructive influence of alcohol and recreational drug use on the Peyote Road. Finally, the incorporation of additional Christian traditions into the peyote ceremony served as a buffer that helped to attenuate the relentless opposition, legal persecution, and harassment of the Peyote Religion.”

“That’s very interesting, Professor Yesteryear,” said Wade, who was feeling more and more comfortable on this pharmacological common ground. “The Indian use of the term medicine for peyote and the relation of this herbal communion bread with the holy body of Christ are clearly more mystical than medicinal in intent. It’s no wonder that the ancient hunter-gatherers found spiritual comfort in Father Peyote, for even Jesus spoke of a spiritual comforter who was yet to come.”

“As a somewhat wayward but magnificent hunter-gatherer—in a beautiful, continual tradition of hunter-gatherers—you, son,” he said as he pointed his finger directly at Wade, “have inadvertently been chosen to play the part of a modern-day Road Man. But as for your personal vision quest, along with its painfully obvious and heartbreakingly romantic connotations, I can only give you the benefit of my own personal experience.

“You see, I was young once, and strong of heart, just like you, and I saw the plight of the Native American Indians as an undeniable injustice insinuating itself upon a people who were virtually helpless to resist the cultural extermination that loomed upon them. Like you, I could not in good conscience turn away from their plight, but took it upon myself to participate in some meaningful way … to document their history, to expound upon the sociological and anthropological principles—and indeed the basic American rights and freedoms—conferred by our Constitution to resist this cultural extermination and to attempt to preserve a precarious religious freedom that is of inestimable value to humanity. From the biblical burning bush, to the steps of Jacob’s Ladder, to the angels of Abraham, Jacob, and even Hiawatha, the potential value of the mystical state is inestimable—in a sacred and religious and historical and an intensely philosophical sense. I knew then, like you know now, that I simply had to help.”
Konrad Ventana in A Desperado’s Daily Bread: A Novella, (Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse, 2009), p. 92. Quanah Parker quotation cited by Hills Snyder in his review of the exhibition Psychedelic: Optical and Visionary Art since the 1960s entitled “Is he dead? Sit you down, father. Rest you.” (San Antonio, Texas: San Antonio Museum of Art, March 13 – August 1, 2010).

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"Those of your Indian brothers who were recognized as having the ability to lead others"