C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D.

I have recently been honored to become spiritually adopted by the Nemenhah Band. The reason is clear– The Native American Cultural and Religious Freedom Act, a FEDERAL law which specifically protects a practitioner of Native American Religion. Healing IS Religion to all American Indians. The ceremony of making a family by Spiritual Adoption is the means for people without blood quanta to become PRACTITIONERS of Native American Religion.

The Nemenhah Band is the convocation of NATURAL Healers who are recognized by the federal government, state governments, American Native Tribes and Bands and Indigenous Holy People. This principle has been upheld in lower courts and all the way through the U.S. Supreme Court. Click on the link for the pertinent case, Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita UDV (2007)

The Nemenhah Band has an open invitation to all healers of good intention to become members of the Band through personal Spiritual Adoption. To satisfy spiritual principles, healers receive ceremonial preparation in order to fulfill the requirements of the Federal Legislation. This preparation allows practitioners to speak and act in a ceremonial manner with regards to their healing modalities.

For an in-depth understanding of this entire process, read the following written by Chief Cloudpiler:


Transition to Determinism – the Key to Actual Health Freedom

Legal scholars have characterized international law prior to the end of WWII as “Positivistic”, meaning basically that the conqueror creates law for the conquered. Naturally, domestic law followed that pattern and it continued to do so right into the twentieth century. Positivistic Law left the Indigenous Peoples and their cultures out of the picture. With the creation of the United Nations, however, International Law has come a long way down the road toward totally “Deterministic” legal institutions, meaning that the Indigenous Peoples of the world are finally beginning to determine things for themselves. It is the intention of this article to demonstrate how this is specifically important to preservation of Natural Medicine.
The creation of the State of Israel is a great example of the transition to Determinism, as is the rise of the INDIGENOUS STATES OF India, Pakistan, Burma, Shri Lanka, and of the many Indigenous African Nations. When the U.S.S.R. broke up, Determinist Doctrine in international law established guidelines for the creation of new nations. Indeed, the majority of states that make up its General assembly did not even exist when the United Nations was created. The recent United Nations declaration on the Rights of indigenous People (UNDRIP) was a landmark piece of legislation, clarifying the U.N. Resolution on Universal Human Rights, that is already coloring domestic law.

What is Determinism

Self determination has been established as a basic Human Right under International Law. When a system of law is created that place Self-Determination at it’s core, it is said to be “deterministic.” In the U.S., we already enjoy some determinism in the law. The Native Americans, Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiians may now establish their own institutions, such as Natural Healing as part of Native American Religion, because of Federal Laws which were inspired by UNDRIP.


The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples allows people and groups who share commonalities such as race, tradition, culture, language, religion, traditional and ancestral territory, and so forth, to gather together without fear and to determine their own identity, preserve their institutions and culture, and to be free from the oppression of positivistic government undertaking.

UNDRIP Colors Domestic Law

The move toward Determinism, oddly enough, has its roots in U.S. support for the creation of the State of Israel. Since then, a body of Indian Law has also grown up that supports autonomous governance by the Indigenous People within U.S. Territory who choose it for themselves. The Cultural Protection and Religious Freedom Act (NACPFRA), formerly known as the Native American Free Exercise of Religion Act (NAFERA), is an example of how powerfully International Law can begin to “color” Domestic Law. It must be admitted that the process of transition to determinism is not complete yet in the United States, and there are still restrictions that limit the Right of Self-Determination by the conquered Peoples within U.S. borders. Nevertheless, Domestic Federal Law does exist to allow for due establishment of Indigenous Peoples and Groups, and the Self-Determination by such entities of their institutions – institutions such as Traditional Methods of Healing.

Federal Laws that Apply


This Federal Law protects the establishment and free exercise of Native American, Native Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian Culture, Religion, Tradition, Art, Language, Intellectual Property, Sacred Sites, and so forth.

RLUIPA (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act)

This Federal Law protects land and buildings which have been dedicated to purely religious land use.

Establishment Clause

When most people think of the “Establishment Clause”, it is almost always in reference to the U.S. Constitution and many of the State Constitutions. Few really understand that all domestic laws which contain establishment clauses are considered deterministic and are colored in their interpretation by International Law. Self-Determination is an Universal Human Right. If Domestic Law protects one’s right to establish an institution, it is admitting greater authority – International Law.
NACPRFA restricts the authority of Federal, State, County, Municipality, as well as Agencies such as FDA, USDA, Offices of the Attorneys General, Medical and Licensing Boards, or any other “Government Undertaking”, to restrict or regulate the “Establishment and Free Exercise of Native American Religion.” It also protects cultural institutions and allows the Native Americans to determine their own systems and methods for regulating their traditions, customs language, internal administration, and even internal systems of justice.

Application Specific to Natural Healing

Where a Native American Church or Belief System defines “Healing” as “Sacrament” and “Ceremony”, the regulatory agencies of government lose jurisdiction to regulate the methods, modalities and materials employed in the practice of their Healing Religion. Regulation without jurisdiction would constitute breach of the Establishment Clause in specific Domestic Laws. It would also prove an act of Extinguishment” or “Cultural Genocide” under International Law.

The Limitations

Definitions: the Laws only apply to the protection of Native American, Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian religion, culture, tradition, sacred sites, language, and so forth.

“Native American Religion” is defined as “…religion believed by Native Americans…”
Ministers of such religions are identified in the law as “Medicine Men or Women”, “Traditional Leaders”, and “Native American Practitioners.” They must be enrolled members of recognized Tribes, Bands or Traditional Communities, or they must be recognized by such members. Such ministers are protected under the law so long as their ministerial practices take place within “Bona Fide Ceremony.”

Bona Fide Ceremony of the Native American Churches is determined by those churches and not by government.


Where this all applies to Natural Healers is the Principle of Emergence. This purely Native American doctrine boldly declares that Healing and Religion are part of the same expression. To the Practitioner of Native American Religion, to assist someone move from a condition of wickedness into a condition of goodness is no different a concept than to assist them move from a condition of sickness into a condition of wellness. The two processes are identical, and they are equally part of the religion. Healing has comprised an important facet of all the Bona Fide Ceremonies of the Native American Tribes and Bands, and of their Native American Churches since the beginning of time. Therefore, and here is the very important point of this presentation, Ceremonies  of Healing are absolutely protected and fall outside the jurisdiction of the government unless they breach one of the other limitation set on the protection afforded under the Law.

Who Qualifies?

Naturally, not everyone qualifies for protection under the law. To act independently as an individual, one must either be a Practitioner of Native American Religion who is an enrolled member of a Federally or State Recognized Tribe or Band, or who is recognized by Chiefs, councils, and/or other Holy People of such Tribes or Bands. Where the Law is inclusive of agencies and organizations outside of specific Tribes and Bands, and which may represent Inter-Tribal Conclaves, members of such organizations are held to practice within the guidelines established by the organization and cannot act alone and unguided.

Who Recognizes the Nemenhah Band?

The Nemenhah Band and Native American Traditional Organization is an Inter-Tribal, Inter-Discipline Organization,
and enjoys the following recognition:

•U.S. Department of the Interior – Religious Use Permit to occupy and use 500 acres within a designated National
•State of Missouri Secretary of State – certification as a “Band and Native American Traditional Organization.”
•Oklevueha/Sioux Nation Communal Native American Church of South Dakota – recognition and blessing as an
Independent Branch of the Native American Church.
•Maka Oyate Sundance Society, representing Holy Men and Women from Tribes and Bands across the North
American Continent.
•John Campbell, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Original People, representing thirty-one (31) Tribes
crossing the U.S. / Canada border.

Pragmatic not Theoretical

In the United States Supreme Court, in the landmark case Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita UDV (2007), the protection
of the use of natural medicine in Bona Fide Ceremony was put to the legal test. U.S. Attorney General Gonzales contended before the Supreme Court that this Native American Church’s use of a combination of strong, medicinal, even narcotic herbs as a Sacrament constituted a “Compelling National Security Interest,” and that the members and ministers of the church could not avail themselves of protection under the law because they had no “Indian” blood quanta or enrollment in Tribes or Bands. Use of the substance Ayahuasca would, presumably, jeopardize the government’s ability to prosecute the “War on Drugs”, and if you aren’t a “Reservation Indian” or “Real Indian” you are not entitled to the protection of an “Indian” law.
The High Court ruled unanimously for the Defendants and Chief Justice Roberts rebutted the arguments in the strongest of terms. In short, Native American Religion cannot constitute “Compelling National Security Interest” and “Indian” blood quanta, or enrollment in recognized Tribes and Bands is irrelevant to protection of the Establishment and Free Exercise of Native American Religion. This important, yet little known Supreme Court decision assures the protection of Native American Religion and provides Real Health Freedom to men and women of good intention who have the courage to declare that Natural Medicine comprises part of the Spiritual Orientation.

Determinism In Action

All Indigenous People or groups are allowed and encouraged to determine for themselves the course and regulation of their own traditional institutions.

To Healers of Good Intention, it should not be difficult to equate “healing” with “religion.” If such Healers can re-think their treatment paradigm, they can be just as protected under Federal Law as the defendants in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Unaio de Vegetal.

The Nemenhah Band has been appropriately recognized as an Independent Branch of the Native American Church. The Nemenhah Band has declared all Natural Healers of Good Intention worthy to be Spiritually Adopted into the Band, no matter whether they have “Indian” blood or not, and to be recognized as Nemenhah Medicine Men and Women – Ministers of the Native American Church. All the Nemenhah People teach Natural Healing as part of the Practice of Bona Fide Ceremony, and they also accept the teachings of other races, people, and individuals which are determined to be efficacious and harmonious with their way of looking at Sacred Healing.

In Practice

In the days prior to the conquest, the Native American medicine man was the “Keeper”, or “Custodian” of Sacred
Medicine. The Sacred Medicine was represented by a Sacred Bundle, which often contained symbolic representations of the Medicine itself, or Sacred Objects used in the Healing Ceremonies. The Sacred Medicine Bundle is common to all the First Nations. Under the guidelines set be the particular Medicine Society, the individual Medicine Man or Woman dictated for themselves the contents and the use of the Sacred Medicine Bundle. This was a personal stewardship and could not be delegated to anyone else.

The Nemenhah Band upholds and affirms this ancient Religion, which is still believed by countless Native Americans, Native Alaskans, and Native Hawaiians, as one of its own institutions. Each of our Medicine Men and Women receive the Sacred Medicine that harmonizes with the Healing Gifts of the Spirit which they obtain through diligent study and through personal revelation or “Wyakin.”

Each Nemenhah Medicine Man or Woman is asked to perform a Bundle Opening Ceremony at the beginning of their ministerial activities. They also make a Bundle Closing Ceremony at the end of such activity. By definition under current Domestic Law, everything that transpires between the opening and the closing of this “Bona Fide” Ceremony falls under the protection of Federal Acts of Congress and the interpretation of the Highest Court in the Land.

Restoring the Sacred in Healing

The key to obtaining true Health Freedom as a Practitioner of Natural Medicine in any of its modalities is a sense of the Sacred and a Deterministic Courage. When a person is able to restore this sense of the Sacred into their healing practices, it is not difficult for them to transform such practices into Ceremony. We do not need a raft of new legislation! We do not need to divide our efforts State by State! Health Freedom has already been provided for us – if we have the courage to see and acknowledge the laws that already exist, and to take them up and make them our own standard of practice.

Open Invitation

To all Natural Healers of Good Intention the Nemenhah People extend an open invitation to seek membership in the
family of the Band, and to take full advantage and ownership of NACPRFA and Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita UDV.
For information about how you can request adoption into the Nemenhah Band and Native American Traditional
Organization, go to

For information on the legal precedents set in state and the Supreme Court see: Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita UDV (2007)


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