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.
Cedar smudge
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. 

Making pemmican
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:
  • Bear Berry (Sa-zah-ko-me-nah ga-wa-zheen):  The leaves were mixed with tobacco to make the common blend used for ceremonial purposes by the Chippewa and other Great Plains tribes.  Used to make Kanikinick.
  • Wild Carrot (Pe-zhe-ke-wush): Used as buffalo medicine for bundles.
  • Avens Root (Be-se-kwunk):  Used as an astringent blood stopper by the Chippewa when applied to wounds.
  • Common Yarrow (Waw-be-no-wusk):  Used in the Wabeno (or Wabanowin) ceremony.  It was rubbed on the skin and used to protect the ceremonial snatching of meat from a boiling pot of water.

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3/8/2013 06:46:52 pm

As I recall, the incense used in medicine but as an air freshener.

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I regularly use incense for relaxation.

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    Content is provided by Kade M. Ferris M.S.  Kade has a B.A. in anthropology and history from University of North Dakota, and a M.S. degree in anthropology from North Dakota State University.  Kade serves as the Historical Society board Vice President and is a professional historian and anthropologist with over 18 years of experience.  He serves as the THPO and Director of Natural Resources for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, and is the Vice President of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Historical Society Board.


    June 2012
    March 2012