Published on November 30, 2012 by Casey
Juniper plants are associated with protection in many different Native American tribes. The Interior Salish and Northwest Coast tribes used juniper to banish evil spirits and protect themselves from witchcraft. Among the southwestern Pueblos, junipers were believed to counteract ‘ghost sickness,’ a malady which afflicted bereaved relatives or people who handle the bodies of the dead. Plains Indian tribes, such as the Dakota, Cheyenne, and Pawnee, often hung juniper boughs on their tepees or burned them in the camp fire to keep their homes safe from storms. And in many tribes people, especially hunters, would carry a spring of juniper as a protective charm or rub juniper branches on their bodies before embarking on a dangerous journey to protect themselves from grizzly bears, monsters, or general bad luck. Juniper is one of the herbs frequently included in medicine bundles and amulets. Juniper berries were also eaten by people in some Southwestern and Southern California tribes, and juniper leaves were frequently used as medicinal herbs.
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Juniper is also used as a clan symbol in some Native American cultures. Tribes with juniper bush clans include the Hopi, whose Juniper Clan is named Hongyam, and the Apache tribes.