Culture and Spirituality

Medicine Teachings


5 minutes - Article

Written by and shared with permission from Bernard Dumas (Cree) for all Nations to learn.

TOBACCO is the first medicine given by Creator. We cannot move forward with anything without making the protocol offering of tobacco. You can offer tobacco protocol to Elders or knowledge keepers to receive teachings, hold ceremony, receive guidance and healing. You need to also offer tobacco protocol when picking other medicines such as sweetgrass, cedar, sage and diamond willow fungus. Offer tobacco to Creator and to that medicine spirit before picking any medicines. We offer this protocol to give thanks to Creator for providing it to us and to replace what we have taken. We first used the Tobacco plant, however, today we can use tobacco from cigarettes or loose tobacco.

SWEETGRASS grows in central and southern Alberta. The ideal time to pick sweetgrass is at the end of July to the beginning of August. Sweetgrass is considered a man’s medicine. Women can use it except when they are on their moon time. Before you pick medicine, you will need to be in a positive space with a clear mind. The energies you have, will be the energies put into the medicine you pick. When you pick the medicine, do not take the root because it will not grow back. After picking the sweetgrass, you dry it by laying it flat in a clean area. When preparing to braid sweetgrass, different people will use different amounts to make the braid. When you braid it, you will create three strands that represent mind, body, and spirit. Light your sweetgrass and cleanse your energy and the energies around you.

CEDAR grows in British Columbia and Ontario. We pick cedar branches and use the needles to smudge, to cleanse and to decontaminate the air. It boosts our respiratory organs health. Cedar can be picked any time of the year. Only pick enough for what you need for the year. After picking cedar branches, lay them in a flat and clean area to dry. Once dry, you can remove the needles and grind them until they are a powder. Light your cedar and smudge or make tea.

DIAMOND WILLOW FUNGUS grows on the diamond willow in damp wooded areas primarily in Northern Alberta. You can pick it year-round, however, the ideal time to pick is in the fall. Diamond willow fungus cannot be used by a woman when she is on her moon time. When picking the fungus, remove it from the diamond willow with a knife. Dry the fungus in a clean area before using it. Once dried, you can break of a small piece and light it to smudge.

SAGE grows wild in central and southern Alberta. Buffalo sage and horse sage are the most common that grow in Alberta. The best time to pick sage is at the end of July. Sage is a women’s medicine. It is the only medicine that a woman can use when on her moon time. When you pick sage, break the stem at the bottom of the plant and do not take the root. This is to ensure the plant grows back by next picking season. After picking sage, lay or hang in bunches in a clean area to dry. Once dried, remove the sage leaves from the stem. The stems should be returned to Mother Earth in a clean area undisturbed by humans or animals or can be burned in a clean fire. You can use sage to smudge your vehicle, office space, home, before you go hunting to be safe, or before you travel. Roll the sage leaves in a little ball, light it and smudge with it.

Want to know more about wellness? Check out BearPaw Media and Education’s Wellness Guide for Indigenous Families

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