Living in the United States today, it may be easy to feel like being open and free about marijuana is a new concept. It isn’t. It became illegal quite recently (for some pretty questionable reasons), and there was a long history of using it on these lands before that.
Many First Nation American cultures used marijuana, but it’s important to know that it wasn’t just for fun. Also, even though many cultures throughout history have used it for medical reasons, it wasn’t just for that, either. It was (and is) deeply rooted in various cultural and religious aspects of their lives.
How much do you know about the First Nation American’s relationship with marijuana?
Drop the Stereotypes
Before getting into the topic of First Nation Americans relationship with marijuana, it’s important to take any stereotypes you have and let them flow away with the breeze. They did smoke marijuana throughout their history, and they still do today, but it wasn’t the way it has been shown in so many movies and TV shows. So, don’t picture a headdress-wearing wise man sitting around a campfire while reading this, but instead remember that First Nation Americans are people living in the modern world like the rest of us.
There are many different tribes with various fashions, traditions, and identities, and it’s difficult to group them all together as one. But, they shared many similarities in years past, and they’re up against a lot of the same challenges in today’s world.
One of the biggest questions people tend to ask is about the famous peace pipes. Are they a real thing? Yes, they are, if you want a short and sweet answer. But, it’s a lot more complicated than that because there are various pipes for many different purposes and reasons. For example, they have them for specific ceremonies, and others are used for certain prayers or blessings.
They pipes themselves are believed to be alive, and they’re given names to show their importance. Also, being the person in charge of one of these pipes is generally considered a great honor. The traditional items get passed from person to person, and it’s a big responsibility to take care of.
Contents of the Pipes
So we know that they have pipes to seal a treaty, offer prayers, or take part in a ceremony, but what is inside of the pipe? First Nation Americans (as you’ve probably figured out), do smoke cannabis in their ceremonies, but it isn’t the only herb. Plants are viewed as sacred in many indigenous cultures, and they have a variety of different things for various situations, including tobacco and wild herbs.
Illegal Regardless of the Reason
Many different religions and cultures in the United States are granted exceptions to certain laws based on religious traditions. Unfortunately, laws surrounding First Nation Americans relationship with marijuana don’t get an exemption, and they’re forced to follow the same rules as anyone else. One of the justifications for this is that it’s such a heavily regulated plant, and it’s too difficult for law enforcement to decide who actually qualifies to possess it. However, the changes made in a few states could be helping to switch this around.
The Situation Today
If you’ve driven through enough First Nation communities, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a casino or two. That trend developed because the laws give tribal sovereignty within the borders of those lands, so they’re allowed to do whatever they want. However, marijuana didn’t make it into this category of decision making for many years, and it remained illegal on First Nation communities.
Fortunately, changing the laws in Colorado and Washington caused this whole situation to get looked at again. In a nice turn of events, it seems the federal government will start treating the First Nation communities the same way as the states with their non-interference policies. In other words, it’s now possible for the tribal nations to start the process of legalizing marijuana on their reservations – if they would like to.
After quite a few tribes starting trying to do this, they found out that it wasn’t as straightforward as it had been made to seem. Now there are questions about whether or not they’ll really be able to control their fate with the plant, but it does at least feel like some progress has been made.
Building a New Culture
It’s a shame that marijuana has had such a rocky history with so many cultures around the world, but it’s nice to see how many have preserved their traditions despite the legal issues surrounding the plant. We love that we’re seeing changes in the laws, and it will be great to see this trend continue. Hopefully it won’t be long before cannabis gets back to its place at the cultural forefront!
“Rino Say What?”
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