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The data tables below are "live" tables of a different kind than PhytoChem which reports quantities of various substances plants contain. They report (from the AGIS Medical Native America database, MPNADB) various tribes who have used different species of juniper and what they used it for. Clicking on a tree or a tribe produces cites to reports -- often old and difficult to locate -- not direct info about tribal uses of juniper.
In these tables -- in the whole AGIS database -- there are no references to Curly Mustasche, the Dinè (Navajo) healer mentioned by Katsi.To find Mathilda Coxe Stevenson, the 19th century woman anthro who, Katsi says, attended Zuni births, at least cites to some of her writings in the early 1900's that probably describe, perhaps in more detail, the Zuni uses of juniper Katsi described, you have to look under a different species of juniper, Juniperus monosperma. That's probably the Gad Katsi discusses, but southwestern tribes made considerable usage of all the juniper species.
These tables give the documentary researcher something to get started on, cites to literature you may or may not be able to find. But the tribal oral history researcher can also find that a certain plant once was and maybe still is used in certain ways by her tribe, so it gives you a bit of a start for research with elders, too.
Juniperus communis just means "the common kind of juniper-in-general" there may be different species in different areas. Among Ojibwe, the name for cedars-in-general is giizhik or giizhag the plural, very similar to the word for moon/sky: giishik. The ordinary, common sort of juniper is called gagawan dagisid, "the deceptive one". This tree is sometimes locally called white cedar, though other species are also known by that common name elsewhere. It was used for general utility purposes,
Another species, Juniperus virginiana, is known as Miskwawak, red cedar, and is one of the sacred trees. It did and does have medical uses, but the main thing to realize about it is that this tree is sacred.
I've prepared linktables that connect you to the big AGIS databases pre-set to show tribal uses (as recorded by ethnobotanists) for both Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and Juniperus communis sometimes known as White Cedar to Ojibwe people (also there are several other trees commonly known as White Cedar; these aren't junipers at all). This is followed by a tribal uses table for Juniperus monosperma, which grows widely in the southwest, the Gad Katsi refers to. These are "live" tables; you can find out a little more by clicking on tribe or tree. What you'll get is not much info, but literature cites.
Following the tribes and trees tables is a link to the PhytoChem analysis of nutrients and other plant chemicals contained in juniper leaves, berries, stems, the starting point for nutritional and medical analytic considerations.
Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)--Multi-tribal traditional uses
Common juniper species (sometimes White Cedar, Swamp cedar, other common names) -- Multi-tribal traditional uses
Oneseed Juniper--Used by southwestern tribes, it's most probably the Gad Katsi discusses; has the Zuni medical references she mentions.
Explanation of USDA NAL Ethnobotany phytochemicals table use -- please read if you haven't used this database before.
Chemical and Nutrient analysis of juniper berries, leaves, twigs
On the cliff at Hat Point, near Grand Portage Ojibwe reservation's harbor in northeastern Minnesota stands a 400-year-old sacred cedar tree -- Manido Giizhigance, Little Cedar Tree Spirit. The cold winds of her long life on the cliff-edge of Lake Superior have twisted and bent that tree, but she has bravely survived.
She represents sacred powers. Her sculptured form is of great beauty and inspiration. It is very annoying to Indian people that this tree has been called "witch tree" by the state of Minnesota hustling tourists. Crowds of disrespectful tourists come out to the edge of the cliff to see it. The tree has been vandalized and its existence is threatened by the hordes.
If you have ever tried to pray, quietly or perhaps with singing, alone or in a group of Indian people, all at some natural sacred place for that sacred purpose, you know the importance of quiet and openness to what is there. Of general respect by everyone in the group. The only time I went there, with a family from Nett Lake to pray for their brother, we were actually photographed and pointed at by repulsive, noisy tourists. I never went back, it was somehow spoiled for me. When I think of that tree, I can't help but feel it is spiritually dead, because for us it was killed spiritually by those tourists, their silly babble, their cameras.
Grand Portage Reservation has tried to protect it with blocked trails and limited hours of visitation. The name given the tree by the non-Indian hucksters -- witch tree -- is something like calling Notre Dame Cathedral "Our Lady of Evil Temple of Sin". It is indicative of the way the dominant white society regards everything Indian people hold sacred. If, anywhere near you, there is a landscape feature: lake, rocks, mountain -- named Devil's Anything, you can be sure this was once a sacred place to local Indian people.
Red Cedar is very much alive spiritually. It has the power to help us by purifying our own spirits, our selves. We pass around a shell or little bowl of burning red cedar to purify ourselves for some ceremonies, like Pipe ceremony. Everyone fans the smoke over their hair, face and heart, greets the spirit, thanks it. At sweat lodge, a few bits of red cedar frond are dropped first on the hot rocks. Its fragrant smoke purifies the lodge even if there is not enough cedar around where you had to build it to line the floor around the hole with it, as you should if you can.
People burn larger amounts of cedar, using branches or bowls, to smudge or purify places, to invite the spirits to help us there. Its fragrant, aromatic smoke helps us clean up our thoughts and emotions of bad, hurtful, harmful things that the world is all too ready to put into our minds and hearts. I smudged the computer lab at school, for example long after everyone had gone home and locked up for the night, I stayed (working) until dawn to do it. Some computer experts might think the cedar smoke would harm the electronics, but in my work life I am a computer expert; I knew this smoke would not hurt them and it didn't.
Cedar smoke speaks to us of a very old time when plants, animals, and people were all the same kinds of beings, and all communicated together in a very old language our body's cells remember. We cannot remember anything else of that time, but when we smell the aromatic cedar smoke, maybe we do even if it can't be put into words.
There are several ways to tell the difference between Red Cedar and White Cedar ("the deceiver"). Red Cedar likes shallow, limy soil, tends to grow in high or at least rocky places. White Cedar likes swampy boggy soil or at least deep humus and lots of water. The trees' foliages are different too. Compare Red and White Cedar:
Common juniper may be low-growing, and in swamps, bogs or muskegs can be so thick as to make getting around hard going. When it grows in more open spaces, it is at first low-growing, but if the soil is good for it, will grow into a conical shape. Eventually, if it continues to grow (to about 40 feet), side branches will begin to spread out. So this species, growing in a sunny, open glade may resemble Red Cedar in its general conformation. On rocky areas, ridges, cliffs, the cedar that grows there will usually be the sacred Red Cedar. There is another species of it -- common name Rocky Mountain Red Cedar -- that flourishes to the west of us in drier hills and mountains.
Red Cedar burns with the strong aromatic smell of ceremonial or private purifications. Red Cedar's wood is beautiful and aromatic -- used to line chests, drawers, and closets to perfume clothing and keep moths away. White cedar lacks those qualities, but its wood is rich in preservative oils. White cedarwood makes strong frames, sidings, shingles that weather to a beautiful pale-striped grey, and last a long time against harsh weather. All the cedars are gifts to us people, but for Anishinaabeg peoples, the Red Cedar is especially sacred.
All this seems to me more important than the chemical components of this biological organism. In comparison, I feel those are true but trivial.
Katsi discusses, without giving the botannical name that would zero in on it, a Navajo and Zuni usage of a cedar-juniper plant she ID's by the Navajo name of Gad. In searching the big databases, I found many more Navajo women's and childbirth uses of a species called Juniperus monosperma. Oneseed Juniper is its common name. But I don't go just by old ethnobotany reports, especially when they didn't record the Native names of plants (no native names are recoverable from either the AGIS or University of Michigan databases, even if they might have been mentioned in the reports cited).
Rough Rock Tribal Demonstration School was the first Native-controlled cultural survival school. It was started by parents (with a lot of opposition from the BIA) around 1969, at Chinle, AZ on the big Navajo rez. In 1986, Rough Rock School put out a cultural cookbook, edited by Regina Lynch. It includes traditional recipes for an infusion (tea) of new branchlets and twigs of the Oneseed juniper to strengthen mothers after childbirth, and several recipes that include grinding its seeds into meal and using them in bread and corncake doughs, as well as using this juniper's leaf ash to make lye water to turn corn and corn meal into hominy. So this species of juniper -- which doesn't grow around here and which I've been uable to find a picture of -- is most probably the Navajo Gad whose berries and foliage Katsi discusses. Its berries and foliage probably contain the same vitamins, minerals, and numerous oils and compounds of the species that is analyzed on the USDA Phytochem database, which you can look at by choosing Juniper ANALYSIS on the menu above..
As yet, I've been unable to find an ID picture of this species of juniper. If and when I do, I'll post it here. Right now, I wouldn't know what one looks like if I tripped over it! I think this -- photographed in mountainous desert by some University of Wisconsin faculty member -- might be a Oneseed juniper.
Juniper berries were used for flavoring in cooking, especially venison and fish, by many tribes. Ojibwe people used many such flavorings during the period when they had little or no salt, and southwestern cooking still favors their aromatic additions to venison. Juniper is probably best known as a flavoring for its use in gin alcohol, which gets its name from the Dutch word ginever for these berries.
CREDITS: The juniper communis (White Cedar) and viriginiana (Red Cedar) photos are from the University of Wisconsin (Madison) botany gopher. The large Red Cedar overlooking Wisconsin farmland was photographed by Dr. Virginia Kline, of the Wisconsin Arboretum (Madison). The photo of Manido Giizhigance was taken by Richard Longseth, scanned from a tourist info book called Minnesota Back Roads (American Geographic Publishing, c. 1990) distributed by the state of Minnesota to foster tourism. It is of course ID'ed there as "the witch tree" and nothing is said about how tourists disturb and vandalize it, or the opposition of the Grand Portage Tribe to such tourist visits and publicity, or how all local Ojibwe people hate the name (witch tree) the hucksters have tagged it with.
Webmistress --Paula Giese.Text and graphics copyright 1996.
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 10, 1996 - 9:21:00 AM