Native American Sacred Plants
- Native Americans consider tobacco sacred and use it for spiritual ceremonies, medicinal purposes and trade. According to "Tobacco Use by Native North Americans," edited by Joseph Winter, the Navajo tribe considered tobacco sacred because the Sky Father and Earth Mother had to smoke tobacco in order to create the universe, and the Crow Indians believed that Morning Star, a deity, became the first tobacco plant when she fell from the heavens. Winter also says that the Yurok tribe believed a spirit called Pulekukwerek was created from a tobacco plant and that the Lakota tribe believed the daughter of the moon and sun, White Buffalo Calf Woman, brought them their first tobacco plant. Before encountering the Europeans, Native Americans mainly used tobacco as offerings to the spirits, for healing and during the Pipe Ceremony, according to the Support Native American Art website. According to the website, the Pipe Ceremony meant to connect the spiritual and physical world. Since tobacco was a sacred plant, it was smoked in the pipe with other sweet-smelling plants such as bayberry.
- A plant used during Native American practices, Larrea is considered sacred, especially by the Pima tribe. According to the Spiritual Healing website, the Pima tribe believed Larrea was the first plant the Earth Maker created and was given to the Pima as a gift to help them maintain their health. Most Native American tribes had healers that used the plant extensively to treat almost all illnesses including chickenpox, colds, skin conditions, joint pain, fever, congestion, bowel problems, tuberculosis and toothaches, according to Spiritual Healing. Modern science has determined that Larrea is a remarkably long-lived plant (one specimen was found to be 12,000 years old) and does contain chemicals that can treat diseases.
- Peyote, a small cactus originating in Texas and Mexico, has been used for thousands of years for spiritual ceremonies, according to Peyote.com. The Native American Church considers using peyote a sacrament to enhance their services. According to Peyote.com, during spiritual ceremonies where prayers, chants and songs are performed, Native Americans ingest peyote, usually brewed into a tea. The hallucinogenic elements of peyote induce a spiritual experience, the website says, which results in a closer relationship with God and a new respect for others.