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Kinnikinnick is a Native American and First Nations herbal smoking mixture, made from a traditional combination of leaves or barks. Recipes for the mixture vary, as do the uses, from social, to spiritual to medicinal.


The term "kinnikinnick" derives from the Unami Delaware /kələkːəˈnikːan/, "mixture" (c.f. Ojibwe giniginige "to mix something animate with something inanimate"),[1] from Proto-Algonquian *kereken-, "mix (it) with something different by hand".[2]

By extension, the name was also applied by the colonial European hunters, traders, and settlers to various shrubs of which the bark or leaves are used in the mixture,[3] most often Bearberry (Arctostaphylos spp.)[4] and to lesser degree, Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) and Silky Cornel (Cornus amomum), and even to Canadian Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), Evergreen Sumac (Rhus virens), Littleleaf Sumac (Rhus microphylla), Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra), and Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina).[5]

Indigenous names[edit]

  • Algonquin: nasemà, "tobacco" (mitàkozigan, "unmixed tobacco"; apàkozigan, "mixed tobacco")
  • Dakota and Lakota: čhaŋšáša
  • Menominee : ahpa͞esāwān, "kinnikinnick"
  • Odaawaa: semaa, "tobacco" (mtaaḳzigan, "unmixed tobacco"; paaḳzigan, "mixed tobacco")
  • Ojibwe: asemaa, "tobacco" (mitaakozigan, "unmixed tobacco"; apaakozigan, "mixed tobacco")
  • Shoshoni: äñ′-ka-kwi-nûp, "kinnikinnick" [6]
  • Winnebago: roxį́šučkéra, "bark to smoke" [7]

Preparation and use[edit]

The preparation varies by locality and nation. Bartlett quotes Trumbull as saying: "I have smoked half a dozen varieties of kinnikinnick in the North-west — all genuine; and have scraped and prepared the red willow-bark, which is not much worse than Suffield oak-leaf.[3][8]

Eastern tribes have traditionally used Nicotiana rustica for social smoking, while western tribes usually use a variety of kinnikinick for ceremonial use.[4] Cutler cites Edward S. Rutsch's study of the Iroquois, listing ingredients used by other Native American tribes: leaves or bark of red osier dogwood, arrowroot, red sumac, laurel, ironwood, wahoo, huckleberry, Indian tobacco, cherry bark, and mullein, among other ingredients.[4]

Historical references[edit]

Among the Ojibwe, Densmore records the following: The material smoked by the Chippewa in earliest times were said to be the dried leaves of the bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng.), and the dried, powdered root of a plant identified as Aster novae-angliae L.. Two sorts of bark were smoked, one being known as "red willow" (Cornus stolonifera Michx.) and the other as "spotted willow" (Cornus rugosa Lam.). The inner bark is used, after being toasted over a fire and powdered. It is then stored in a cloth or leather bag, and may be used on its own or in combination with other herbs.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "kiniginige" in Frederic Baraga A Dictionary of the Ojibway Language. Minnesota Historical Society Press (St. Paul, MN: 1992). ISBN 0-87351-281-2. Part II, page 189.
  2. ^ Flexner, Stuart Berg and Leonore Crary Hauck, eds.. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd ed. (unabridged). Random House (New York: 1987). Page 1058.
  3. ^ a b "Kinnikinnick" in Frederick Webb Hodge (editor) Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology (Washington: 1911). Part 1, page 692.
  4. ^ a b c Charles L. Cutler. Tracks that speak: the legacy of Native American words in North American culture. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Boston : 2002). Pages 174–176. ISBN 0-618-06510-5
  5. ^ Smoking and Pipes, Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People
  6. ^ Chamberlin, Ralph Vary (1911). "The Ethno-botany of the Gosiute Indians of Utah" (PDF). Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association Vol II, part 5. Retrieved 2007-11-12.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Hočąk Encyclopedia". Richard L. Dieterle. 2005. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  8. ^ ""Kinnikinnick" in John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms, 4th Edition. Little, Brown, and Company (New York: 1877). Page 335.
  9. ^ Frances Densmore. Chippewa Customs. Bureau of American Ethnology (Washington: 1929) Reprint: Minnesota Historical Society Press (St. Paul: 1979). Pages 144-145.
  10. ^ Warren, William W.. History of the Ojibway People. Minnesota Historical Society Press (St. Paul, MN : 1885; repr. 1984). Page 150 and page 411.
  11. ^ Inez Hilger. Chippewa Child Life and Its Cultural Background. Minnesota Historical Society Press (St. Paul, MN : 1951, repr. 1992). Page 63.
  12. ^ John P. Williamson. An English-Dakota Dictionary. Minnesota Historical Society Press (St. Paul, MN : 1902; repr. 1992). Page 95.
  13. ^ Ruxton, Geo. Frederick "Life in the Far West" 1848; quoted in "Mountain Men" edited by Rounds, Glen 1966, p.163


External links[edit]

  • Traditional Tobacco pamphlet by the Urban American Indian Tobacco Prevention & Education Network