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'Medicine man' claimed Indian heritage in his 40s

A self-proclaimed "medicine man" who faces federal charges for distributing peyote to non-Indians didn't start claiming he was Indian until he was in his 40s, The Provo Daily Herald reports.

That's when James Warren "Flaming Eagle" Mooney received a call from Chief Little Dove, the leader of the Osceola Band of the Seminole Tribe in Florida. Little Dove told Mooney that his great-great grandparents were "Seminole warriors" who escaped the Trail of Tears to live in Missouri.

The call stirred an apparently repressed memory in Mooney. Little Dove told him that his grandfather saved him from a near-death experience by conducting some sort of ceremony in a sweat lodge. So Mooney, who was raised as Mormon, decided he should become a medicine man in honor of his grandfather.

Mooney, now 61, eventually turned to the Native American Church and began offering its sacrament, peyote, to others. That landed him in trouble with state authorities, who raided his home and seized more than 12,000 peyote buttons. But the Utah Supreme Court cleared him of charges, saying that state law doesn't restrict peyote use to members of federally recognized tribes.

Federal authorities believe otherwise and say Mooney is in violation of federal law. Mooney is not a member of a federally recognized tribe.

Get the Story:
Medicine Man (The Provo Daily Herald 5/22)
Peyote and peyote law (The Provo Daily Herald 5/22)

Peyote Decision:
State of Utah v. Mooney (June 22, 2004) (7/12)

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