During the period of time in which the candidate is instructed in
the foregoing traditions, myths, and songs the subject of Midē´
plants is also discussed. The information pertaining to the
identification and preparation of the various vegetable substances
is not imparted in regular order, only one plant or preparation, or
perhaps two, being enlarged upon at a specified consultation. It may
be that the candidate is taken into the woods where it is known that
a specified plant or tree may be found, when a smoke offering is
made before the object is pulled out of the soil, and a small pinch
of tobacco put into the hole in the ground from which it was taken.
This is an offering to Noko´mis—the earth, the grandmother of
mankind—for the benefits which are derived from her body where they
were placed by Ki´tshi Man´idō.
In the following list are presented, as far as practicable, the
botanical and common names of these, there being a few instances in
which the plants were not to be had, as they were foreign to that
portion of Minnesota in which the investigations were made; a few of
them, also, were not identified by the preceptors, as they were out
It is interesting to note in this list the number of infusions and
decoctions which are, from a medical and scientific standpoint,
specific remedies for the complaints for which they are recommended.
It is probable that the long continued intercourse between the
Ojibwa and the Catholic Fathers, who were tolerably well versed in
the ruder forms of medication, had much to do with improving an
older and purely aboriginal form of practicing medical magic. In
some of the remedies mentioned below there may appear to be
philosophic reasons for their administration, but upon closer
investigation it has been learned that the cure is not attributed to
a regulation or restoration of functional derangement, but to the
removal or even expulsion of malevolent beings—commonly designated
as bad Man´idōs—supposed to have taken possession of that part of
the body in which such derangement appears most conspicuous. Further
reference to the mythic properties of some of the plants employed
will be made at the proper time.
Although the word Mashki kiwa´bun—medicine
broth—signifies liquid medical preparations, the term is usually
employed in a general sense to pertain to the entire materia medica;
and in addition to the alleged medicinal virtues extolled by the
preceptors, certain parts of the trees and plants enumerated are
eaten on account of some mythic reason, or employed in the
construction or manufacture of habitations, utensils, and weapons,
because of some supposed supernatural origin or property, an
explanation of which they have forgotten.
Pinus strobus, L. White Pine. Zhingwâk´.
1. The leaves are crushed and applied to relieve
headache; also boiled; after which they
are put into a small hole in the ground and hot stones placed
therein to cause a
vapor to ascend, which is inhaled to cure backache.
The fumes of the leaves heated upon a stone or a hot
iron pan are inhaled to cure
2. Gum; chiefly used to cover seams of birch-bark
canoes. The gum is obtained by
cutting a circular band of bark from the trunk, upon which it is
then scraped and
boiled down to proper consistence. The boiling was formerly done in
Pinus resinosa, Ait. Red Pine; usually, though erroneously,
termed Norway Pine.
Used as the preceding.
Abies balsamea, Marshall. Balsam Fir. Ini´nandŏk.
1. The bark is scraped from the trunk and a decoction
thereof is used to induce
2. The gum, which is obtained from the vesicles upon
the bark, and also by skimming it
from the surface of the water in which the crushed bark is boiled,
is carried in
small vessels and taken internally as a remedy for gonorrhoea and
for soreness of
the chest resulting from colds.
3. Applied externally to sores and cuts.
Abies alba, Michx. White Spruce. Sĕ´ssēgân´dŏk.
The split roots—wadŏb´-are used
sewing; the wood for the inside timbers of canoes.
Abies nigra, Poir. Black Spruce. A´mikwan´dŏk.
1. The leaves and crushed bark are used to make a
decoction, and sometimes taken as
a substitute in the absence of pines.
2. Wood used in manufacture of spear handles.
Abies Canadensis, Michx. Hemlock. Saga´inwunsh—“Raven
Outer bark powdered and crushed and taken internally
for the cure of diarrhea. Usually
mixed with other plants not named.
Larix Americana, Michx. Tamarack. Mŏsh´kīkiwa´dik.
1. Crushed leaves and bark used as Pinus strobus.
2. Gum used in mending boats.
3. Bark used for covering wig´iwams.
Cupressus thyoides, L. White Cedar. Gi´zhĭk—“Day.”
1. Leaves crushed and used as Pinus strobus. The
greater the variety of leaves of
coniferæ the better. The spines of the leaves exert their prickly
the vapor upon the demons possessing the patient’s body.
2. The timber in various forms is used in the
construction of canoe and lodge frames, the
bark being frequently employed in roofing habitations.
Juniperus Virginiana, L. Red Cedar. Muskwa´wâ´ak.
Bruised leaves and berries are used internally to
Quercus alba, L. White Oak. Mītig´ōmish´.
1. The bark of the root and the inner bark scraped from
the trunk is boiled and the
decoction used internally for diarrhea.
2. Acorns eaten raw by children, and boiled or dried by
Quercus rubra, L. Red Oak. Wisug´emītig´omish´—“Bitter
Has been used as a substitute for Q. alba.
Acer saccharinum, Wang. Sugar Maple. Innīnâ´tik.
1. Decoction of the inner bark is used for diarrhea.
2. The sap boiled in making sirup and sugar.
3. The wood valued for making arrow shafts.
Acer nigrum, Michx. Black Sugar Maple. Ishig´omeaush´—
Arbor liquore abundans, ex quo liquor tanquam urina
Sometimes used as the preceding.
Betula excelsa, Ait. Yellow Birch. Wi´umis´sik.
The inner bark is scraped off, mixed with that of the
Acer saccharinum, and the
decoction taken as a diuretic.
Betula papyracea, Ait. White Birch. Mīgwas´.
Highly esteemed, and employed for making records,
canoes, syrup-pans, mōkoks´—or
sugar boxes—etc. The record of the Midē´wiwin, given by Minabō´zho,
drawn upon this kind of bark.
Populus monilifera, Ait. Cottonwood. Mâ´nâsâ´ti.
The cotton down is applied to open sores as an
Populus balsamifera, L. Balsam Poplar. Asa´dĭ.
1. The bark is peeled from the branches and the gum
collected and eaten.
2. Poles are used in building ordinary shelter lodges,
and particularly for the
Juglans nigra, L. Black Walnut. Paga´nŏk—“Nut
Walnuts are highly prized; the green rind of the unripe
fruit is sometimes employed in
staining or dyeing.
Smilacina racemosa, Desf. False Spikenard. Kinē´wigwŏshk—“Snake
weed or Snake
1. Warm decoction of leaves used by lying-in women.
2. The roots are placed upon a red-hot stone, the
patient, with a blanket thrown over
his head, inhaling the fumes, to relieve headache.
3. Fresh leaves are crushed and applied to cuts to stop
Helianthus occidentalis, Riddell. Sunflower. Pǔkite´wǔkbŏkuns´.
The crushed root is applied to bruises and contusions.
Polygala senega, L. Seneca Snakeroot. Winis´sikēns´.
1. A decoction of the roots is used for colds and
2. An infusion of the leaves is given for sore throat;
also to destroy water-bugs that have
Rubus occidentalis, L. Black Raspberry. Makadē´wĭskwi´minŏk—“Black
A decoction made of the crushed roots is taken to
relieve pains in the stomach.
Rubus strigosus, Michx. Wild Red Raspberry. Miskwi´minŏk´—“Blood
The roots are sometimes used as a substitute for the
Gaylussacia resinosa, Torr. and Gr. Huckleberry. Mī´nŭn.
Forms one of the chief articles of trade during the
summer. The berry occupies a
conspicuous place in the myth of the “Road of the Dead,” referred to
connection with the “Ghost Society.”
Prunus Virginiana, L. Choke Cherry. Sisan´wewi´nakânsh´.
1. The branchlets are used for making an ordinary
drink; used also during gestation.
2. The fruit is eaten.
Prunus serotina, Ehrhart. Wild Black Cherry. Okwē´wĭsh—“Scabby
1. The inner bark is applied to external sores, either
by first boiling, bruising, or chewing
2. An infusion of the inner bark is sometimes given to
relieve pains and soreness of the
Prunus Pennsylvanica, L. Wild Red Cherry. Kusigwa´kumi´nŏk.
1. A decoction of the crushed root is given for pains
and other stomach disorders.
2. Fruit is eaten and highly prized.
3. This, believed to be synonymous with the June Cherry
of Minnesota, is referred to in
the myths and ceremonies of the “Ghost Society.”
Prunus Americana, Marsh. Wild Plum. Bogē´sanŏk.
The small rootlets, and the bark of the larger ones,
are crushed and boiled together with
the roots of the following named plants, as a remedy for diarrhea.
plants were not in bloom at the time during which the investigations
and therefore were not identified by the preceptors, they being
enabled to furnish
only the names and an imperfect description. They are as follows,
two species, one with red berries, the other with yellow ones;
having small red berries;
and Cratægus coccinea, L. Scarlet-fruited Thorn. O´ginīk.
Typha latifolia, L. Common Cat-tail. Napŏgŭshk—“Flat
The roots are crushed by pounding or chewing, and
applied as a poultice to sores.
Sporobolus heterolepis, Gr. Napŏ´gŭshkūns´—“Little
1. Used sometimes as a substitute for the preceding.
2. Roots are boiled and the decoction taken to induce
emesis, “to remove bile.”
Fragaria vesca, L. Wild Strawberry. Odē
Referred to in the ceremony of the “Ghost Society.”
The fruit is highly valued as a luxury.
Acer Pennsylvanicum, L. Striped Maple. Mōn´zomĭsh´—“Moose
The inner bark scraped from four sticks
or branches, each two feet long, is put into a
cloth and boiled, the liquid which can subsequently be pressed out
of the bag is
swallowed, to act as an emetic.
Fraxinus sambucifolia, Lam. Black or Water Ash. A´gimak´.
1. The inner bark is soaked in warm water, and the
liquid applied to sore eyes.
2. The wood is employed in making the rims for frames
Veronica Virginica, L. Culver’s Root. Wi´sŏgedzhi´wik—“Bitter
A decoction of the crushed root is taken as a
Salix Candida, Willd. Hoary Willow. Sisi´gewe´mĭsh.
The thick inner bark of the roots is scraped off,
boiled, and the decoction taken for
Symphoricarpus vulgaris, Michx. Indian Currant. Gus´sigwaka´mĭsh.
The inner bark of the root boiled and the decoction,
when cold, applied to sore eyes.
Geum strictum, Ait. Aven. Ne´bone´ankwe´âk—“ Hair on one
The roots are boiled and a weak decoction taken
internally for soreness in the chest,
Rumex crispus, L. Curled Dock. O´zabetshi´wĭk.
The roots are bruised or crushed and applied to
abrasions, sores, etc.
Amorpha canescens, Nutt. Lead Plant. We´abŏnag´kak—“That
which turns white.”
A decoction, made of the roots, is used for pains in
Rosa blanda, Ait. Early Wild Rose. O´ginīk.
A piece of root placed in lukewarm water, after which
the liquid is applied to inflamed
Anemone (sp.?) Anemone. Wisŏg´ibŏk´;
also called Hartshorn plant by the mixed-bloods
The dry leaves are powdered and used as an errhine, for
the cure of headache.
(Gen. et sp. ?) Termed Kine´bĭk
wansh´kons and “Snake weed.”
This plant was unfortunately so injured in
transportation that identification was
impossible. Ball-players and hunters use it to give them endurance
and speed; the
root is chewed when necessary to possess these qualities. The root
is likened to
a snake, which is supposed to be swift in motion and possessed of
Rhus (aromatica, Ait. ?) “White Sumac.” Bŏkkwan´ībŏk.
Roots are boiled, with those of the following named
plant, and the decoction taken to
(Gen. et sp. ?) Ki´tshiodēiminibŏk—“Big
Roots boiled, with preceding, and decoction taken for
Monarda fistulosa, L. Wild Bergamot. Moshkōs´wanowins´—“Little
The root is used by making a decoction and drinking
several swallows, at intervals, for
pain in the stomach and intestines.
Hydrophyllum Virginicum, L. Waterleaf. Hunkite´wagūŭs´.
The roots are boiled, the liquor then taken for pains
in the chest, back, etc.
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The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society, 1891
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