Native American Sweetgrass OR''

Native American Sweetgrass OR''

Native American Sweetgrass

Sweetgrass is a circumboreal plant which is common above 40 degrees north latitude in Asia, Europe, and North America (Walsh 1994). In North America this fragrant grass grows regionally from Labrador to Alaska, and south to New Jersy, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Arizona and Washington (Larson 1993). Sweetgrass can be found growing wild in wet meadows, low prairies, the edges of sloughs and marshes, bogs, shaded streambanks, lakeshores, and cool mountain canyons. Sweetgrass rhizomes and roots form a dense mat beneath the soil surface (Walsh 1994).


Sweetgrass is used to "smudge"; the smoke from burning sweetgrass is fanned on people, objects or areas. Individuals smudge themselves with the smoke, washing the eyes, ears, heart and body. Mi'kmaq have long used sweetgrass as a smudging ingredient, often mixed with other botanicals. Sweetgrass is one of the four medicines which comprise a group of healing plants used by the people in Anishinabe, Bode'wad mi, and Odawa societies. The other three are tobacco, cedar, and sage (Mary RitAmong the Chippewa wicko'bimucko'si (sweetgrass) is braided and used in pipe-smoking mixtures along will red willow and bearberry, when it is burned, prayers, thoughts and wishes rise with the smoke to the creator who will hear them. Densmore (1974) describes the story of "a hunting incident in which a party of men placed sweet grass on the fire when the camp was in danger of starving and they were going again to hunt. Medicine men kept sweet grass in the bag with their medicinal roots and herbs".

Trudie Lamb Richmond, Schaghticoke, spoke to a Mohawk basket-maker not long ago and asked her how she felt about weaving sweetgrass into her baskets. Sweetgrass is used by her people in their ceremonies and like tobacco is believed to have great power. It was used long ago in the ceremonial baskets and continued to be important even in those times when basket making became more material and less spiritual. She told me she had thought about this meaning and that was why she always talked to her baskets as she made them. She said that she asked forgiveness for having to sell the baskets, but that she needed the money to survive. Using the sweetgrass would keep the baskets strong and alive, and she hoped that the people who bought them would appreciate their significance. The basket weaver explained that she never picked the grass without making a tobacco offering. Her people believe that you have to give something for everything you take; even a tobacco offering is an acknowledgment. That is the old way, our way. (McMullen & Handsman 1987) (Source: www.nativetech.org)



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