What Did Native Americans Smoke?

In stereotypical renditions of Native Americans, we are always used to seeing elders and shamans wreathed in thick layers of smoke.

Smoke has been associated with Native American tribes and rituals for a long time, but most people don’t understand the true nature of this, and why it is important to their culture.

If you find yourself wondering about this aspect of Native American Culture, then you’ve come to the right place.

Below is an article that will outline some of the history and true facts regarding Native Americans and smoke – how this was and is used within their culture, as well as its spiritual significance.

What Did Native Americans Smoke

We’ve also added a short Frequently Asked Questions section at the bottom, to answer some of the more common questions around this topic. 

So, What Did Native Americans Smoke? 

Let’s first consider tobacco as it is the most commonly used and understood substance smoked by Native Americans throughout history. It’s important to note first off that tobacco usage within many Native American Cultures is not the same thing as how we use it today in the modern world.

In our society, tobacco is used mostly as a stimulant for day-to-day life – sold in raw form or as cigarettes which are lit up and used at any time of the day.

Cigarettes are well known to cause cancer, being blamed for just below 500,000 deaths per year in the United States of America. The additional ingredients that are placed in cigarettes are as much to blame as the tobacco itself, as well as the habitual use that sees an average smoker often getting through half a pack per day.

Traditionally, Tobacco usage for Native Americans was not used in this way. Many Native American communities throughout the course of time have used tobacco for traditional, spiritual, and ritual reasons.

For a long time tobacco has been grown, harvested, and used by Alaska Natives as well as Native Americans. It has great spiritual significance and many tribes teach stories about the origin of the plant.

It’s worth noting that these teachings and stories all link to the pure form of tobacco, which is not something we regularly indulge during modern society.

The plant is known as Nicotiana Rustica. It is also important to point out that these teachings, stories, and rituals vary massively depending on the specific location of the Native American Community. Native Americans are a diverse and widespread group that is not just related to one part of America and history.

Some of the most common practices regarding tobacco usage within Native American Communities include the burning of tobacco during rituals, sometimes to symbolize carrying thoughts, prayers, and emotions to the spirit world. 

Tobacco has been used as a token of goodwill throughout history. This has been seen both with colonists trading and discussing with Native American Tribes, as well as between tribes and within communities. Tobacco is seen as sacred and important within Native American tribes for a long time. 

Did Native Americans Smoke Marijuana? 

This is something that is asked a lot, but it’s important to consider the geographical position of marijuana compared to the Americas.

In short, Marijuana is not a native plant to the New World and didn’t become a commonly used herb until the 18th Century. Marijuana (Cannabis Sativa) is a plant native to India, Iran, and the Caucasus region of Eastern Europe. 

The idea that Native Americans smoked Marijuana is misinformation. Although Marijuana has a rich history of being bought, sold, and transported – it wouldn’t have come into contact with Native American Communities until a lot later in their history.

The rituals associated with tobacco are much older, so there just hasn’t been any time for Marijuana to be integrated into their communities. 

It is likely that there is some marijuana use within modern Native American Communities, especially in certain parts of the United States where it is becoming more normalized. That said, Marijuana has not been used as a traditional substance in the same way that tobacco is. 

Final Thoughts

So there you have it – the answer to ‘What Did Native Americans Smoke’ is Tobacco, though not in the same way that we might in the modern world.

Tobacco, by in large, was used as a substance to enhance rituals and traditional events – being burned to symbolize a great deal of different spiritual meaning. It was also often used as a gift and as an offering.

We hope that this article has helped you understand a little more about Native American culture and history.

It’s important to keep tobacco sacred within Native American communities, so the more people who learn of its importance both historically and in the modern-day, the better! Understanding the history of Native Americans is vital. Below is a short Frequently Asked Questions section to close out the article.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Native Americans Inhale Tobacco? 

This is actually something that we have some information about, at least historically. Generally, tobacco was not inhaled in the same way we might in our modern society.

In many traditional rituals, the smoke is not inhaled into the lungs, but placed on the ground and burned. It becomes the centerpiece of a ritual in which thoughts, prayers, and emotions are burned upwards towards the spiritual realm. 

What is a Native American?

This might seem obvious, but it’s an important distinction to make. Native Americans have a rich history and are spread across the entirety of the Americas.

There are countless different cultures, religions, beliefs, and traditions between these communities, and it is important to realize that you can’t generalize when it comes to Native Americans because of their diversity.