The use of plants for medicine was a specialty of the Chippewa and much of the knowledge of plants gathering and medicinal properties is passed down generation to generation. The myriad of plants and their uses would encompass its own book. Those discussed in this section are but a few of the more common historically used plants.
Cedar was used by the Chippewa as fragrant incense during ceremonies to invoke good feelings and to encourage spirits to enter the ceremony. Both Red Cedar (called Mis-kwaw-wauk) and White Cedar (Ke-zhik) were used by the Chippewa. Generally, cedar was sprinkled on burning cinders so as to release the incense during ceremony. Cedar was normally gathered where it could be found. Red Cedar was more common in western climates, while White Cedar was found in the eastern tribal areas.
Choke Cherry (Sus-suh-way-meen-ne-gah-wunje) was used as a food source for making Pemmican and as an additive to soups. Arrowhead (also known as Swan Potato) was also used as a food source. Its tubers are edible raw or cooked, and can be dried and stored for months. Various other plants were used to supplement the Chippewa diet.
Medicinal plants, such as New Jersey Tea (Ke-teg-ge-manito) had useful applications. This plant’s roots were used by the Chippewa for pulmonary troubles and for constipation coupled with shortness of breath and bloating. Bitterroot, a plant common in Montana, was used as a physic by the Chippewa. Some of the other commonly used plants are provided below: