Published on November 29, 2012 by Casey
Cedar is one of the most important Native American ceremonial plants, used by many tribes as an incense and purifying herb. Cedar is especially associated with prayer, healing, and protection against disease. Cedar is commonly used as part of sweat lodge ceremonies, and is also one of the herbs frequently included in medicine bundles and amulets. Cedar leaves and bark are used as medicine plants in many tribes as well.
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The cedar tree itself is also of great importance to many Native American tribes, particularly on the Northwest Coast. Northwestern tribes used hollowed-out logs of red cedar to make their imposing fishing and war canoes (which could be as long as 60 feet), built their homes from cedar planks, and carved their spectacular totem poles and other important cultural artwork like wooden masks and bentwood boxes from cedar wood. They also made clothing, textiles and fine-grained basketry from cedar root fiber and shredded cedar bark. Few Northwest Coast Native people today remember how to make dugout canoes, but cedar carving and cedar-root basketry are still vibrant art forms in the Pacific Northwest.
Cedar trees are also used as a clan symbol in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Cedar Clans include the Hopi tribe.