The life of James Mooney is a study in contrasts and proof that people can make a real difference in the world when they create principle and discipline in their lives and stand firm for what they believe in.
James’ early life was filled with excess, lack of direction and self-defeating behaviors. He had no long term goals and no spiritual center. He did not know his heritage and did not view anything as important. He was eventually diagnosed as strongly bi-polar and was on a downward spiral into apathy and a probable early death. Then something happened.
James was contacted by Native American relatives and tribal leaders and told that it was time to fulfill his destiny. He was told that he was to become a medicine man. This lead to a time of contemplation and active involvement in Native American ceremonies and particularly “medicine” (Peyote) ceremonies. Over the next few years he focused his life on this new direction, became knowledgeable and powerful in leading a variety of types of ceremonies and was blessed by Leslie Fool Bull and Richard Swallow of the Rosebud Reservation Native American Church to create Oklevueha Native American Church with the specific charge to “take this medicine to the White Man”.
Many American Native people did not understand or agree with this purpose and, in fact, tried on a number of occasions to have James killed because he was letting “non-Indians” into the lodges and ceremonies they held as being only for the Natives. James had come to understand that to heal the conflict between cultures that had raged for over 400 years, the Native Americans had to first forgive and then bless and heal those who were willing within the culture (European immigrants) that had decimated, conquered and abused his people.
As a result of practicing their spiritual walk and sharing these medicines, James and his wife were arrested and charged with numerous felonies that would have incarcerated them for decades. Through numerous court hearings and trials, they stayed firm in their belief that their actions were legal and important to those they served and refused plea-bargains and other legal maneuvers designed to convict and incarcerate them and prove that what they were doing was illegal. The case was finally decided by the Utah Supreme Court in a unanimous decision that stated that, not only was what they were doing legal, but that law enforcement was to leave members of ONAC (Oklevueha Native American Church) alone as they practiced their spiritual practices and that there was no restriction on who could participate based on race or any other factor, as long as they were sincere in their beliefs.
Since that time, Oklevueha NAC has grown to include approximately 200 branches in the United States and in many foreign countries. More important is the blessing and healing of lives they have touched. Many members report overcoming addictions, self-defeating behaviors and relationship problems. Many have found new purpose and direction in life. Many have changed from barely existing to becoming engaged and successful in their work, families, spiritual groups, communities and lives.
Oklevueha NAC has also expanded their understanding and reach, including many natural remedies and empowering ceremonies and sacraments including Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Cannabis, Mushrooms and other substances that have come down to us through Native Americans and their spiritual practices. In addition to assisting people to change their lives in positive ways, healing or improvement of actual physical problems such as cancers, nerve disorders, immune disorders and many others have been reported by those who have participated in these ceremonies and sacraments.
James hopes that the future will bring increasing freedom for people to use these ancient tools for healing and empowerment around the world. He believes that, as people find healing, forgiveness, humility, respect, charity, gratitude, faith and honor (the guiding principles of Oklevueha), our societies will naturally become more peaceful. Individual rights will be respected, conflicts will decrease, prosperity will increase and happiness will be the norm instead of the exception in the world. That is the legacy that he hopes to leave from the struggles, sorrows and persecutions he and his family have endured.