Author Topic: Sale of sweetgrass and sage  (Read 30507 times)

Offline Moma_porcupine

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Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« on: February 15, 2006, 12:37:34 pm »
All the traditional people I have known , have always said we do not buy or sell sweetgrass
and sage, if this is to be used in ceremony ( as differing from , say , a non ceremonial
craft material , or a herbal remedy for a specific physical complaint ) It is gathered in
a traditional way which involves prayer , and it is passed on ( or possibly traded for
other medicines ) in a way that involves prayer , not money.
It seems more and more sweetgrass and sage are beginning to turn up for sale at powwows ,
and sale of this is even promoted by respectable Native run websites, such as this ;

linking to

This website also contains an excellent article explaining to
people that real Native traditions are not sold commercially . This can be found through
the below link ;

Below is another link to a website put together by a group of seemingly respectful
Native women , which says they are taking actions to stop exploiters of their
Spirituality .

In this website is a link to a series of articles on the Sacred uses of Tobacco , Cedar ,
Sage and Sweetgrass found here ;

While these articles ask people to be careful not to buy these plants from
people who have not harvested these plants in a respectful , prayerful way , I do not see
it mentioned that many traditional people feel strongly that sweetgrass and sage should not
be bought and sold at all .
Interestingly , the Native Languages website seems to rationalize this commercialization by
saying , something like "a feather is just a feather a plant is just a plant " and the
redroad collective says buying it is Ok as long as it was gathered in a enviromentally sound
traditional prayerful manner , and is not seen as "just a plant".
Perhaps this commercialization is within the traditions of some Native cultures ,
but if so, I have never heard of it . I think more likely this is just one more way
New Age consumerism is influencing Native culture and tempting some good Native people
to bend to cater to this . I think there is also a lot of pressure from Native friends
and relatives to go along with this new way of making a few bucks . If needing to make
a few bucks , is going to be the new guiding principle , I have to wonder what other
non commercial Spiritual traditions will be next.
With so much sage and sweetgrass being offered for sale on the internet , I was beginning
to wonder if maybe was just imagining what I heard many times about not selling smudge ?
I did some poking around and there was lots and lots of websites selling sage and
sweetgrass but not much talking about that in many traditions it is not bought and sold .
With some searching , I did find a couple links to Native organizations which
mention this as a concern .

The Santa Cruz Indian Council
PO Box 326
Santa Cruz, CA 95061-0326

2. In an earnest attempt to provide only American Indian made arts and crafts, the
committee will not allow any imported or non-Indian made items to be sold. Violators
will be asked to remove such items: subsequent violation will result in closure
of your booth. 3. Sage, sweetgrass, cedar ceremonial pipes, bowl and stems made
out of pipestone may not be sold due to the religious purpose and significance

Arizona State University Pow Wow Committee Post Office Box 248, Tempe, Arizona, 85280  

In order to maintain the integrity of the event, we do not allow the selling of Tobacco,
Sage, Sweet Grass, Pipes, Knives, "Grand Canyon, Stringed, or Junk Jewelry."


Offline Moma_porcupine

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pt . 2 Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2006, 12:40:18 pm »
It is nice to see there is still some Indians in cyberspace , who do not accept of the
sale of sage and sweetgrass. All the traditional people I know still follow the old
way , and do not buy or sell sage and sweetgrass , but I worry about what sort of point
of reference people will have in the future , as the sale of these things is becoming
increasingly normalized .
If Native people or a tribe decides it is OK to sell traditional ceremonial items , such
as sweetgrass braids and sage ( or even red pipestone pipes in the above link ) , these
same Native people will not have much credibility if they then try and say that non native
people should not be using out of context bits and pieces of Native traditions , and that
these ceremonies should not be mixed up with New Age or commercialism , as they have ,
after all , set the example and sold these things themselves .
When people buy things they usually assume they own it . Almost all the buyers I know
of , are New Age types . No healthy traditional person that I have ever known buys
sweetgrass, or sage for smudging .
All this pressure towards commercialization seems like a cancer . It is like the
immune system that was powered by our responsibility to maintain respectful relationships ,
and which protected these traditions for all these generations , is beginning to be broken
down so it no longer works .
Maybe there is some good reasons behind this commercialization that I am not understanding ,
but ,how it seems to me , the sale of sweetgrass and sage , is just one more step towards
eroding and confusing the longstanding traditional reference points , that always made it
clear , traditional ways of prayer are not for sale .
That this now so often seems to be seen as OK , really seems like a loss .


  • Guest
Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2006, 02:40:18 pm »
Thank you for all the information.

In traditional Cherokee ways (in the old days) we did not buy tobbaco, it was grown, and the kind used for 'medicine' was given to who needed it by a medicine person, who first 'remade' the tobacco.

There are all sorts of writings about remaking tobacco all of which leave out (a deliberate ommission I think on the part of the medicine person to whoever they were talking to) some very important aspects and steps.

Sometimes I buy organically grown and I have been planting my own, but alas I still had to buy the seeds.

Again thanks for the info and the links.


Offline raven

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Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2006, 02:56:40 pm »
I can appreciate the concern about the selling of sweet grass and sage. I myself live here in IL. and sweetgrass does not grow wild in my region, however with much persistance I do now have a plentiful bounty of it growing in my yard. The sage on the other hand is sent to me from my sister out in S.D. she herself goes out and picks it to send.

What I would like to address is that I have an elder aunt and uncle in S.D. that along with their grandchildren go out and pick it, bundle it, and sell it, along with their beadwork out of the trunk of their car. They do this to compensate for their small income.
How could I go to my uncle who is a Korean verteran and a direct descent of Crazy Horse and tell him what he is doing is wrong? I believe I would probably get thumped on top of my head with a talking stick. Any suggestions?


  • Guest
Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2006, 06:20:51 pm »
Maybe what he is doing isn't wrong. This is the year 2006 and we all have to eat. This is not the old days with a trade and barter economy. Just my 2 cents worth.



  • Guest
Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2006, 07:44:00 pm »
The only plant I can harvest in my area is cedar.  The soils here makes it difficult to impossible to grow sweet grass and some places of the country sage, tobbaco,sweet grass. Being Cherokee sage is new begining in 1970 at Wounded Knee, as it was growing all around. If I am wrong please correct me. Cherokee used sweet grass,tobbaco,cedar and cornmeal.

I have on issue at the selling of these plants for it is my opinion that it is how one uses it that is the real issue here. The misuse of these is a big problem by those who seem to think if they use these in a "ceremony" will make them more indian. hey?


Offline raven

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Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2006, 09:36:34 pm »
My uncle told me that when he was a youngster, they had an old barrel in the yard. They would pick sage and burn it in the barrel to repel against mosquitos. He told me that his people considered sweetgrass, cedar and tobacco to be sacred.
It was during the hold out up in Wounded Knee, when the runners came in with food and supplies, they brought in sage also. It was during that time that sage became used in a sacred way. Sage was growing all around the church there and they had easy access to it.
I believe it is what and how people use these things that make it bad. Not whether they obtained it by picking it or buying it.
Joseph you are right, this is 2006.

Offline Moma_porcupine

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Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2006, 11:12:17 pm »
It would be to really hard to talk to a respected elderly loved one about the negative side
effects of their behavior , especially if what they are doing is to get basic necessities
or comforts of life .  I think there are many Native people who have relatives selling sage
and sweetgrass , or even ceremonies , who have the same problem .

In my own life , I have chosen to speak out , but for me it is easier because it has
involved friends and not respected elderly relatives. It has made some people mad at me,
but , out of respect for Elders who have passed on , I feel I have to say something .  

No one I know has actually changed their behavior , so maybe it is a useless confrontation ,
and I know conflicts like this are dividing some Native communities  .

In some situations  , perhaps confronting things directly , is not always the best way .  
There are the underlying issues like poverty , the lack of choices available to Native
people , and being surrounded by a culture that has a general lack of understanding and
respect for even the most basic principles of Native cultures . Sometimes , maybe it is
more constructive to work towards solving these problems than to confront the symptoms
head on .

Native participation in commercialization of traditions,  does make it a lot more difficult
to educate New Age types about the damage done to Native cultures , when they use out of
context bits and pieces of traditional ceremonies , because they can point to individuals
who are Native ,who have sold them the paraphernalia to do so . The arguments given here
that it is that it is now 2006 , and people have to eat , and it is not what we do but our
intentions ,sound just like the arguments the New Age types use to justify their own
commercial activities .  

Personally , I will continue to remember the traditions as they were shared with me ,
and I think it is important to do so , whenever possible . I do not feel I have
the authority to decide it is OK to change these traditions so someone I like can
make money , but I do sympathize with people who feel it would not be constructive
to speak out on this in some situations .

New Agers fail to realize the temptations and problems their willingness to pay,
creates for Native people struggling to retain the health of their traditions .

It is a very complex problem , and I do not have the answers either, but I appreciate
that you care . I guess all we can do is the best we can .

Thanks .

Offline yellowthunder_bolt

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Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2006, 01:44:41 am »
How wonderful it would be to be able to put my hands into mother earth and be able to plant the sacred herbs, how I long for it. However in this part of the country the soil is not conduit to the growing of these most sacred herbs, and I have no way of growing,harvesting these sacred herbs in a sacred and traditional manner.
Mom-porcupine you are richley blessed, however calling people who are traditional American Indians,  ones with new age thinking is not a good way of handeling things and in fact prsents a sense of arrogance on your part.

One must always be careful what they say and the tone it is said in. I have not read what American Indian tribe you are from. Elders are highly respected and it is not a matter of if you like someone or not, it's traditional to respect our Elders and out of that respect things will be taken care of.

I do want to come to you in humility and respect and ask for Real Indian tobbaco, sweet grass and sage our sacred herbs. If you could send me some ,It would be greatly appreciated as I know it has been planted and harvested in a sacred and prayerful way. Just leave me a message and I will give you my address.             Wado

Offline raven

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Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2006, 04:47:30 am »
Let's get to the real issue here about this subject.
So scrape off the leftovers off of the plate.
This concept is a shallow  mind that is totally clueless to what it is like to be native.

To even conceive the idea of telling an elder that their behavior is a negative side effect to their traditions, well you already flunked native 101, never tell an elder they are wrong.

For some families selling some sage and sweetgrass can make the difference between their kids going to bed with an empty or full stomach. Have you ever worked in a soup kitchen on the rez, watch all the young mothers with their children come in to get a descent meal, or driving to an elders home to take a meal and once arriving walking into a home that has a hole in the middle of the livingroom floor because that is where they burn wood to keep warm?
Or perhaps sitting with a family that had to make their home inside a hill and to attend their 12 yr old daughter's funeral because she committed suicide beacuse of the shame she felt?

What you take for granted such as that computer you are using, do you know how many children that would feed, or putting a warm coat on their back, I know, and if you like I could break it down for you.

No you don't have the authority to educate native people on what they do to survive.
I think you need to get out of the books and the sites and go live with a family or go volunteer on the rez, get a taste of what life is really like for most of them. I am sure you would find a real issue to educate people about, and it wouldn't be the native people, it would be the white people.
I have a belief if you feed the stomach you feed the spirit,  that is the real world.
This reminds me of a young woman that was taking a native class at a nearby college, she came to my home while my aunt and uncle was visiting, in this visit my uncle was taking some time with her to teach her about the medicine wheel, and guess what she did, she pulled out her papers from school and told my uncle he was wrong, that what she had on her papers from school was the correct teachings of the medicine wheel. That was her first and last visit in my home.
Lesson number 1 never tell an elder that they are wrong.
But by the way you speak I know that you live fairly comfortable, I bet your home is warm tonight. Guess how many are sleeping in a cold home, I bet you don't go to bed hungry tonight, guess how many families will ?
And don't let me start about the alcohol, drugs, or gangs. I would be sitting here all night on those subjects.
The real breakdown comes from our government plain and simple. Did the government tell you where you are living at now, did they tell you that is where you will live?
The government began the stripping away of the culture and the tradtions, the new agers and others they are just the vultures there to pick at the rotted meat.


  • Guest
Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2006, 05:10:42 am »
Also, we don't call sage, sweetgrass and tobacco, paraphenalia


  • Guest
Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2006, 01:07:44 pm »
I was just replying to the selling of sage and sweetgrass by this elder, not ceremony, when I said it was 2006.

When I was little we also used sage as an insect repellent.

To clarify what I was taught (as a Cherokee) and not to go into great detail, I was taught the use of tobacco and cornmeal, and certain woods, such as pine and cedar. Cedar was reserved for certain people to use on certain occassions/ceremonies, not for everyone. I only point this out so those that do not know will understand that not every Indian person uses or thinks that sage and sweetgrass is sacred or would think it wrong to  sell it.

And when I say it is 2006, let me put it this way. I do not live on my Grandparent's farm. I cannot get cornmeal from them. I have to buy it. So when I speak of intent, my intent when I use this cornmeal is as it should be. Remember, the word 'intent' was not invented and added to our vocabulary by new agers.


Offline Moma_porcupine

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Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2006, 01:51:27 pm »
Thanks Joseph , sometimes it is hard to understand what people are saying on line .

I found this article in a back issue of Indian Country today . It is about a conference
to discuss developing tourism as a cultural resource . It sounds like there are many
elders involved in this process , so it can be carefully decided what parts of the
culture can be can be turned into an economic resource, and what parts
of the culture need to be protected from the market place .

This article mentions ceremonies like the sweat lodge and pipe will not be open to
tourism , and that the elders get upset when they see people selling sweetgrass and
other things . Making a plan that is guided by elders and traditional values , and
sets it up so the demands of the market place will not destroy the culture sounds
like a really constructive response to change . If traditions must change to work
with present circumstances , it makes sense this change is formally agreed to ,
and led by a group of recognized tribal elders   .

I am not going to defend myself from personal attacks , or post personal information
on line . I can assure you my personal credentials are less than impressive . LOL .  
It is not important who I am one way or the other .What is important is that people
not forget the teachings of their own tribal elders before New Age consumerism became
an influence , and that if we want our cultural boundaries to be respected we don't
give double messages about where those boundaries are .

I have made my points , and if there is any truth in them I hope they stick .

Points,  points , ha ha , get it .

Offline Raven_Walkingstick

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Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2006, 05:19:38 pm »
My intent of my posting was not to attack you on a personal level Momma Porcupine.
I am in full agreement with some of the things you spoke of such as selling of ceremonies.
What upsets me on this subject is that I sit here with amendments that were written up by "elders, pipe carriers, medicine bundle carriers. This amendment is to stop the selling of such ceremonies, yet I know personally one of these "elders" that attended the meetings and signed the amendment is very much guilty of such things as charging for naming ceremonies and sweats.
It is things such as this that's gets me highly aggitatated for it is a typical mentality of do as I say not as I do. Unfortunately there are many out there like that.

My response to you could have and should have been nicer. This stems back from being raised by elder grandparents that as a young woman saw how they were treated in society due to their race.
What I read in your post was a message of the elders need to be taught.
However  it does not mean that what you say I believe is the right way or the answer. I speak as I do out of respect of my grandparents because they deserved to be treated with dignity not like children that need to be taught.

As the saying goes it only takes one "bad apple"
Get it. Which there are many out there.
Have you ever read about the lost generation?
If not I highly suggest it, that will give more insight to why somethings and some people are the way they are.

Offline yellowthunder_bolt

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Re: Sale of sweetgrass and sage
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2006, 09:04:28 pm »
This sounds like a lot of one upsmanship going on here. The only skins being Joseph and Ravin.
While Porcupine has made some valid points they all seem to come out of "Indian Country" and not much of her own personal teachings, experience, and knowledge taught to her by Elders personaly can be heard. "I can assure you my personal credentials are less than impressive.LOL" tells me you find that somewhat funny. Believe me this is no laughing matter. So YOU as a non-native have not been given much if any knowledge of Native traditions personaly concerning the right and wrong way of things.
"If WE want our cultral boundaries to be respected WE don't give double messages about where those boundaries are". Now I'm confused because I just got a double message, who is the WE. Are you stating you are NDN. O by the way that statement came out of "Indian Country".

My POINT is you seem to come across as wanting to be NDN, and trying to impress with knowledge you have read. It is not for one WHO IS NOT an ELDER by tradition to be direspectful verbally or in writing as you have been toward the Elders Raven spoke of. So if I were you I would LISTEN to these words. " your POINTS" serve no one but YOURSELF.

"A Wise person listens very close to the unspoken words and tones of the messanger."