Native Americans & Cannabis

This blog post was originally published on November 26, 2020. Due to a problem with our server it was deleted and is now being reposted.

It is widely known that Native Americans had a relationship with cannabis. Although the cannabis plants they grew were a different kind than we cultivate today, they had a bond with marijuana.  Not all tribes considered it a sacred herb, but many used it in healing, rituals, and for spiritual purposes.

How did Native Americans Use Cannabis?

Seen as having medicinal properties, many tribes used cannabis to treat ailments. Stomach aches and nausea were ordered a dose of seeds, and its calming properties accompanied many other remedies. Problems such as headaches, eye irritation, and syphilis were prescribed cannabis. Its leaves were compounded or crushed to extract a milk juice used for many skin issues as a topical.

It was recommended to use marijuana for relaxation as well.  The Native Americans recognized that mental health is equally as important as physical, and cannabis was a tool used to help psychologically. Often it accompanied meditative practices. This could be daily meditation using the herb in some form, or a more significant ritual. 

Sometimes this included social interactions, where participating in smoking the herb together was considered powerful and sacred in itself. A sacred pipe, coined peace pipe by the European settlers, is a staple in Native American traditional gatherings. Often cannabis was included in the mix of ingredients consumed in these pipes used to honor Spirits and the universe.

Cultural Purposes of The Plant

The type of plants Native Americans grew were not like cannabis sativa plants on the market today, rather they more resembled modern day hemp. Their stocks and branches were used to make rope and various textiles. Due to its strength, it was very useful for things such as  netting and clothing. It was important that all parts of the plant were appreciated and had a purpose.

Different strains were used for different purposes. Because all of their effects were varied, some were considered more sacred than others. Traditions of Native Americans growing strains can be traced back hundreds of generations. It is obvious that they understood botany and the scientific side of growing cannabis, as they had multiple strain types. Often many dedicated fields would be dedicated to the plant within a tribe’s land.

As a part of their culture, they embraced its properties and were as resourceful as possible with the plant. It was something that tied people together of different generations. Women and men both took advantage of the uses of cannabis.

It should also be noted that not all tribes used cannabis or considered it a part of their culture. It is unknown exactly how many Native Americans used it, but there is evidence that some did and some did not.

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