Jesus, Peyote, and the Holy People: Alcohol Abuse and the Ethos of Power in Navajo Healing

Abstract

Of the three religious healing traditions that coexist within the contemporary Navajo health care system, the Native American Church (NAC) and Pentecostal Christianity are more actively involved in the treatment of alcohol and substance abuse than is Traditional Navajo healing. This article examines these two more recent healing traditions as religious responses to the contemporary Navajo crisis of alcohol and substance abuse as well as to socioeconomic changes. These traditions offer new kinds of power, social networks, and personal meaning that facilitate a transformation of self, a revitalized sense of community, and a new vision of the possibilities of the future for Navajo people who suffer. Examining the ethos of power that underlies Navajo healing can complement the theoretical emphasis on harmony and beauty in anthropological research on Navajo culture and religion.