The Huichol people of Northern Mexico may have given rise to the use of the hallucinogenic peyote cactus as a sacrament. Caves where the people lived as long ago as 5000 B.C. have been found to contain peyote buttons from that era.
The Huichol believe that their creator god, the Deer-Person, sacrificed himself and became earthbound in the form of peyote. By ingesting the cactus, which is thought to be the heart, soul and memory of the creator, they can come to know his wisdom. The tradition of eating the heart of the Deer-Person creator comes after a hunting expedition is mounted and the peyote is shot with arrows and considered felled.
After the Spanish came to the Americas and encountered peyote use, the practice was outlawed and practitioners were tortured and killed. It wasn't until 1918 that peyotists descended from the Huichol and other tribes formed the officially recognized Native American Church and came to enjoy protection of their religious beliefs [source: Fikes].