Quanah Parker, Medicine Man and Chief
Quanah Parker, a half-breed Comanche Medicine Man and Chief (1845 or 1852-1911) successfully made the transition from being a ruthless, murderous American Native War Chief of anyone (Mexicans as well as Americans) attempting to invade his American Native culture and territory, into an outstandingly successful, American Native politician, business and family man, and friend of the United States President Theodore Roosevelt and James Mooney. He is accredited to be the founder of the Peyote movement and unquestionably, the major American Native leader of influence that set the seed and planting for the incorporation of the Native American Church of Oklahoma. Quanah Parker and James Mooney maintained their friendship throughout their adult lives, as were their sons in the years after their father’s deaths.
It has been reported that after the deaths of Cynthia Parker and her daughter (Quanah’s mother and younger sister), while visiting Texas, Quanah prophesied that he would soon follow his mother and sister. Quanah’s self-prophecy was nearly fulfilled. Soon after arriving in Texas where Cynthia Parker’s mother resided, Quanah, the young Comanche Eagle genuinely seemed to be on his deathbed. White doctors were unable to help him. He was not able to tolerate the white man’s food that his Grandmother Parker prepared for him. All he did was lie numb in a stupor or turning restlessly in her brass bed.
In the few instances of consciousness from his delirium, he begged to be taken outside into the open air, where he could die on Mother Earth and under the presence of Father Sky. It has also been said that he pleaded for an Indian Medicine Man to assist him to join his mother and sister so that he could be relinquished from his tormented soul. His Grandmother Parker knew of no medicine man, so in despair she sent for a woman referred to by the Mexican term Mara’akame, (who cures with herbs, Indigenous American Native sacred ceremonies).
The Mara’akame woman spoke only Spanish. She immediately ordered a brush arbor to be built which was opened to the north and south winds. Quanah was laid on the ground with his head to the east. While he lay there, the woman prayed and smudged him with smoke from tobacco filled cornhusk cigarettes that she would blow over him. She regularly dosed him with the flesh of peyote, and its tea that was “as bitter as death” for four days and three nights. During these four days of healing, Quanah realized that his desire to die was in part, based on his anger and hatred which he acted out through his unrelenting and ruthless killing and torturing of Americans and Mexicans. The Mara’akame also advised him on ways to honor Peyote. When he promised solemnly to the Mara’akame, and the other people present that he would cease his ruthless behavior with Americans and Mexicans, and obey all the teachings he had received, the agony of guilt and despair was immediately dispatched.
Parker created and taught the “half-moon” Peyote Traditional Ceremony” in which peyote was to be used in partnership with tea when partaking of the American Native Sacrament. All Native American Church Ceremonies have freedom to use the American Native Sacrament in this manner. To this day, the Native American Church and its independent branches are the only federally recognized and authorized organizations to conduct ‘all’ American Native Indigenous earth based healing ceremonies and rituals.
The “Cross Fire” (Christian symbol) ceremony (originally called the “Blue Moon” ceremony) also included many other Christian symbols. The Cross Fire tradition evolved from the “Half-Moon” tradition in Oklahoma (initially among the Kiowa Indians) and then spread to other American Native tribes throughout the United States and Canada. This was due to the influences introduced by John Wilson, a Caddo Indian who traveled extensively with Parker during the early days of the Native American Church movement.
The genesis of modern NAC ceremonies has deep roots in Mexican Indian culture and ritual, due to the natural locality of Peyote and the dissemination by Parker to the Comanche and other plains tribes.