Almost from the day Columbus set foot in the New World, American Indians have wrestled with an array of European vices. And that struggle has played out over the years in a dozen ways — from the whooping young warriors high on "firewater" in old Western movies to the melancholy news features about addiction and drug abuse on the reservation.

On Wednesday, a the old saga was given a new twist. Representatives of several Utah Native American organizations asked Utah lawmakers to put tighter restrictions on cactus "peyote buttons" — a natural hallucinogen some tribes ingest to prompt visions in religious ceremonies. They want its use limited to members of federally recognized tribes in Utah.

The initiative has several purposes. First, it will stop people from using religion as an excuse to get high. It will also give law enforcement officers a measuring stick to decide who deserves to be in possession of the drug, especially after the mixed messages Utah sent out in 2004. At that time a couple was charged with felony drug possession for having peyote, only to have the Supreme Court conclude the pair had a right to the drug under the nebulous Utah law.

But more than that, tribal leaders want to keep the stereotype of the drunken or stoned Indian from rearing its ugly head. During Utah's Winter Olympics, native leaders protested when the Ethnic Village planned to install a beer garden to defray expenses. The feeling then was that one drunken Indian on Main Street was one too many. Given the Bud World fiasco that followed, the move to squelch alcohol at the Village was wise.

And so is this move from many of Utah's American Indian leaders to rein in peyote. The bill before the Utah House would simply bring Utah law into line with federal law and fill loopholes that have allowed many people — including Anglos — to use peyote as a recreational drug. A similar bill almost made it through last year. With the new push from prominent members of local tribes, it stands a better chance this year.

Whether one agrees with the use of peyote in religious rites or not, it is easy to agree with Ute elder Clifford Duncan, who told the committee, "I'm saddened that people will trample on something so sacred to Native Americans."

We urge the Utah legislature to pass HB60 and separate religion from recreation when it comes to peyote.

Utah's native peoples have earned the consideration.