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Tobacco - A sacred plant of the early Indians which was used in making offerings to their gods, in curing diseases, bringing good luck, and in sealing agreements and binding treaties.  Early Europeans arriving in America found tobacco being used by the natives in many was - in pipes, as cigarettes, and as cigars.

indians made good will offerings to Columbus with tobacco leaves, and later he saw them smoking tobacco in the form of cigars.  "These muskets as we call them, they call tobacos,"  one early Spanish writer recorded.

The astonishing thing about tobacco is that in less than a century after its discovery by the white man, its use had circled the globe.  it was first introduced into Portugal and Spain in 1518;  into France by jean Nicot - from whose name came the word nicotine - in 1559;  into Italy in 1560; Turkey, 1605; Russia, 1634; and into Arabia in 1663.  it was carried to the Philippines by the Spanish, cultivated there, and exported to China, thence to Siberia and then to Alaska.

Some Indians along the Atlantic seaboard smoked for pleasure, but the general use of tobacco among Indians was of a ceremonial nature.  It was used long before the coming of Columbus, as shown by pipes dug up at many prehistoric sites.

Indians usually did not like straight tobacco and mixed it with barks and herbs.  This mixture was termed kinnikinnick by the Algonkin.  The scarcity of tobacco, too, might have accounted in some cases for such a mixture.  Among most Indians tobacco was cultivated by men alone and smoked only by them.

While Europeans later raised, cured, and compressed tobacco into cakes and sold it to the Indians, in their ceremonies the Indians would not use this tobacco.

Related Information within this Site
[ Calumet ][ Kinnikinnick ][ Petun ]