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'Medicine man' arrested, charged in peyote flap

A self-described "medicine man" from Utah was arrested and charged on Thursday for illegal possession and distribution of peyote and for misrepresenting himself as an American Indian in order to obtain the hallucinogen.

A federal grand jury indicted James "Flaming Eagle" Mooney, 61, his wife and another "medicine man" for their use of peyote. The drug is considered illegal except for federally recognized tribal members who belong to the Native American Church.

Mooney and his co-conspirators don't qualify, federal authorities say. Yet Mooney held himself out as a bona-fide church member in order to obtain peyote, they say. Mooney claims Seminole ancestry but is not a member of any federally recognized tribe.

The federal charges come after Mooney was cleared of violating state law against peyote. The Utah Supreme Court said the language of the law doesn't prohibit non-Indians who claim to belong to the church.

Mooney started the Oklevueha Earthwalks Native American Church, which is not accepted as legitimate by other Native American Church leaders. The Utah Native American Church said it welcomes the prosecution of Mooney.

Get the Story:
Peyote advocate charged with illegal possession, distribution (The Salt Lake Tribune 6/24)
Utah trio indicted on peyote charges (AP 6/24)
Mooneys arrested for distribution, possession of peyote (The Provo Daily Herald 6/24)

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

Relevant Links:
Utah Native American Church -

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