Objects of Purpose—Objects of Prayer: Peyote Boxes of the Native American Church

Daniel C. Swan

Abstract


Peyote boxes are the containers that members of the Native American Church use to store and transport the ritual and personal objects used by participants in the night-long religious services of the Church. Peyote boxes can be classified into two basic forms; boxes specifically produced for use by Peyotists and a wide range of containers adapted for such use. In addition to their functional value, Peyote boxes also provide an additional arena for the expressive culture of Peyotism through the various media and methods employed to decorate and embellish their exterior surfaces. Through a lifetime of use, Peyote boxes become highly intimate, portable records of personal experience, both spiritual and secular. Peyote boxes provide a rich context for an examination of the criteria used by museums to collect objects and the potential for biased representations of the material world.

Keywords


Native American Art; Native American Church; Peyote; Woodworking; Painting; Material Culture Studies; Collections

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