Disrespect in the Drug Front; the Tale of a White Man Looking for Native Help

After reading up a bit on indigenous peyote tribes, it came to my attention that there was obviously a white guy wanting to get in on the action; his name, John Rave. At first, I wasn’t sure if the name Rave was a joke (signifying that he wanted to party) or just another colonial looking for attention. Alas, it was probably the latter, which really kind of pissed me off. Let’s take a look.

Taking only what is written from John Rave in this excerpt (OpenAmLit) it’s safe to assume that we really don’t know why he’s there. “During 1893-94 I was in Oklahoma with peyote eaters.” (OpenAmLit) And for some reason, they let him in. “Oh, sure. He’s white, it’ll probably be funny” was undoubtedly the reaction from the peyote cult leader. He took the peyote, and immediately thought about throwing it back up, which isn’t uncommon when taking a crazy, foreign (to Rave) hallucinogen the first time. Then, he says something else; ” You have been going around trying everything and now you have done something that has harmed you” (OpenAmLit). My first thought was “what was the gateway drug?” but from there I got frustrated. The is a sacred drug to the Winnebago tribes, to the Peyote cults, and here comes a white outsider, looking for a little spice in his life.

Once it really got into Rave’s system, he actually thought he was going to die. Like, literally die; ” If only some of my own people were here! That would have been better. Now no one will know what has happened to me. I have killed myself” (OpenAmLit). After this, there really was no recollection of what went on with Rave until the afternoon, where he would regroup and spend a bit of time ‘laughing’ with the rest of the cult. Later in the evening, the cult wanted to take more peyote. Rave almost sounds peer-pressured to take the peyote, but then we remember he’s volunteered to do this and can’t really back out. Rave’s excerpt then recollects upon the worst trip of his life, and how they took SEVEN peyote apiece that night. At this point, to see what the cult was thinking about on this night would be almost comical.

White man arrived yesterday, asking to take part in eating peyote. We talked about it briefly, agreeing that he probably couldn’t handle it and told him that he could. We watched him after his first trip, screaming the names of other white men and crying hysterically on the ground in the fetal position. Tonight, we’re going to feed him SEVEN at the same time! Surely he will produce tremendous humor among us all, and give us a relief even the peyote cannot deliver. Unfortunately, that document doesn’t exist, but what does is Rave’s recollection of the years to come and his usage of peyote.

After the first couple nights, Rave begins to tell us how the peyote really took action in the way the Winnebago used it. “Many years ago I had been sick and it looked as if this illness were going to kill me. I tried all the Indian doctors and then I tried all of the white man’s medicines, but they were of no avail. “I am doomed. I wonder whether I will be alive next year.” Such were the thoughts that came to me. As soon as I ate the peyote, however, I got over my sickness. After that I was not sick again. My wife had suffered from the same disease, and I told her that if she ate this medicine it would surely cure her. But she was afraid, although she had never seen it before. She knew that I used it, but nevertheless she was afraid of it. Her sickness was getting worse and worse and one day I said to her, “You are sick. It is going to be very difficult, but try this medicine anyhow. It will ease you.” Finally she ate it. I had told her to eat it and then to wash herself and comb her hair and she would get well, and now she is well. Then I painted her face and took my gourd and began singing very much. Then I stopped. “Indeed, you are right,”she said, “for now I am well.” From that day on to the present time she has been well. Now she is very happy” (OpenAmLit).

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it was unclear to the audience as to what Rave’s intention really was. He sounded like a colonial hippie, trying all sorts of drugs and living ‘la vida loca,’ but we really find out that he was actually sick, and so was his wife. But why does this piss me off?

Simply, because he’s white. What we understand from the early comings of settlers is a complete overthrow from the white man; killing the natives, burning down their homes, and ruining their cultures. A couple hundred years later, we find the white man looking to the natives for help, and the natives come through for the white man. The piece that was titled “John Rave’s Account of the Peyote Cult and his Conversion.” At first, it’s written like the stereotype I give Rave from the get-go. What we really find out, is the conversion; the white man, going to the natives for help, and not talking about it until he found that the peyote might have indeed saved his life.