Native American Technology and Art
Willow Branches and Other Twigs and Roots.

The Native American technological use of all types of trees and wood is would fill a million libraries. The Native Americans discovered the specific qualities of branches, twigs and tree roots that make them perfectly suited for particular tasks. Native Americans have a multitude of uses for willow that included medicine and technology. Native Americans also found utility in the roots and twigs of a variety of spruces, cedars and pines.


trees are sturdy, well anchored trees growing along river banks or near streams, lakes and ponds. Native Americans recognized many useful medicinal and technological qualities of the willow tree. The inner bark and leaves of many willows contains the medicinal extract, salicin, or salicylic acid (salix is Latin for willow). This chemical is the active ingredient in common aspirin. (acetylsalicylic acid). Native Americans chewed or boiled a tea from the willow's leaves or inner bark to relieve fever or other minor pain like toothaches, headaches, or arthritis. The willow is often given the nickname "toothache tree".

Aside from medicine, Native Americans developed many technological applications for willow. Willow branches are straight, pliable and flexible. Because of these sturdy qualities, the branches provide excellent an excellent raw material for making a multitude of items. Many Native American groups used willow to make their arrow shafts. Drawing or painting by Native Americans sometimes used a brush made by bruising the end of a willow twig. Native Americans have produced several kinds 'wicker' basketry (checker-weave and twined) that uses willow stems or branches. Willow has also been used by Peoples such as the Kiowa and Blackfoot to make backrests with parallel branches bound together with sinew threads and hung from a tripod. The Arapaho people made a veritable bed by attaching a willow backrest to a platform raised a foot off the ground. Willow branches were laid parallel, bent and lashed together to fashion cradleboards by the Apache. Ojibway traditionally used willow hoops to make dream catchers for children's cradleboards, and split willow withes to make dolls. The most amusing application of split willow branches is probably the construction of these stick figures, including the prehistoric willow deer from the Southwest. The Blackfoot people's Brave Society, makes ceremonial use of this branch; the 'willow brave' (who ranks next to the leader of the society) carries a branch of willow to which yellow painted plumes are tied. Dome-shaped wigwams and ceremonial lodges often incorporate willow saplings for the curving lodge poles. For some ceremonies and meetings, Natives of the Plains place a canopy of willow branches on top of the dance arbor; when the branches are harvested, red willow (Red Osier Dogwood inner bark) tobacco is offered to each plant to honor its gift.

Learn about other Roots and Twigs used by Native Americans:


Branches, Twigs & Roots Bibliography and Books to Buy On-Line

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