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Other Plants

Sage

While trees provided the various peoples of the northwest with construction material, medicines, and emergency food supplies, other plants of the boreal forest also had their uses. Fruit-bearing plants like blueberry and cranberry could provide a rich supplementary food source, while lichen and sphagnum moss could provide everything from a sanitary absorbent for diapers to a means of sealing in gaps in the walls of log cabins. Several types of fungus, while not really classified as plants, were used as such, serving as air fresheners and fire starters.

Some plants, like sweetgrass and the mix of plants used to make traditional tobacco, or kinickinnick, had applications in the spiritual life of many northern Aboriginal Peoples. Smoke from sweetgrass was used in Sweat Ceremonies, while kinnickinnick was used by some peoples as a spiritual offering.

Finding and using the various undergrowth plants of the boreal forest required traditional peoples to know the specific growing seasons of the plants they needed, and knowledge of how each plant matured. The inherent dangers of using plants also had to be studied extensively, as some plants could prove harmful when used, while others were only useful if not used excessively. Such knowledge could literally mean the difference between life and death in the northwoods.

 

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