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Roots and Rootcraft - Indians used roots for food, medicine, and dyes; for making baskets, cloth, rope, and salt; and for chewing and flavoring.

Roots of species of the lily were used widely as food, as was the camas, which was found from the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, north to the Canadian border and west to the Pacific Coast.  The root of the kouse, a word derived from the Nez Percè kowish, also known as "biscuit root," was used by them to make thin cakes a foot wide and three foot long.

The Plains Indians prized the pomme blanche, Indian turnip or Indian potato, pounded and cooked with jerked meat and corn.  The Miami, Shawnee, and other tribes were fond of Jerusalem artichokes.

The Hopi and Zuñi, as well as other southern and eastern tribes, used wild potato; the Navajo were fond of eating it with clay.  The Seminole converted coonti, a starchy root, into flour fro bread.  This became popular with the whites and at one time several Florida mills produced coonti flour.

Sweet roots were chewed and scores of roots were used for medicinal purposes.  Ginseng, later exported to China by white men, was used by some Indian medicine men, who believed it gave them power. 

Dye was made from root bark by the California Indians, from bloodroot by the northern and eastern tribes, and hair dye was extracted from a small root by the Virginia Indians.

The Hopi Indians burned an incense root during ceremonies.  Fish were drugged with soaproot in gCalifornia, and with a variety of poisonous roots by the Iroquois and other tribes of the East.

Rope, cordage, and baskets were made from the trailing roots of spruce, tamarack, hemlock, red cedar, and cottonwood.

Related Information within this Site
[ Baskets ][ Camas ][ Fishing ][ Food ][ Medicine ]