Published on November 29, 2012 by Casey
The bark of willow trees has been an important medicinal herb since ancient times in nearly all corners of the world (salicylic acid, which comes from willow bark, is the original source aspirin was derived from,) including many different Native American cultures. In addition to the willow tree’s importance as medicine, willow has also been used as a source of red dye and as a major basket-making material in the western tribes (the flexible willow shoots tended to be used for basket-weaving in the southwest, while Northwest Coast tribes like the Quileute used willow bark fiber for their baskets and Northern California tribes tended to use willow roots.) The Plains Indian tribes use willow boughs in the construction of their sweat lodges, and willow catkins were sometimes eaten as a food supplement among the Alaskan tribes. In some Northern California tribes, willow sprigs are carried for spiritual protection; in the Karuk tribe, willow sprigs are attached to boats to protect them from stormy waters. To the Arapaho tribe, the willow tree was a symbol of longevity.
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Willow is also used as a clan symbol in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Willow Clans include the Hopi tribe (whose Willow clan is named Kahabi or Kahabi-Wungwa), the Navajo, the Apache, and the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico.