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Page 1

Culturally Important Plants of the Lakota


Based on interviews, research, and a comprehensive review of historical documents.


Principal Investigator

Linda S. Black Elk
Email: [email protected]


Primary Cultural Consultant

Wilbur D. Flying By, Sr.



© Sitting Bull College 1998*
*No part of this document may be reproduced in part or whole without expressed permission from the copyright holder or

the author.


DISCLAIMER: This document is for informational purposes only and is not intended for medical advice. No liability exists
against the authors or anyone involved in the making of this document, nor can they be held responsible for any allergy,

illness or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of information in this document or through using
any of the plants mentioned in this document.

Page 2

1 Acer negundo boxelder maple čhaŋšúška

Sap is collected in the early spring by "tapping" trees and is used as a
sweetener or a refreshing beverage. The leaves are sucked to relieve
dry mouth during Sundances. The inner bark is edible, but only used
during food shortages. The seeds are also edible after the husks have
been removed and the seeds boiled.

2 Acer saccharinum silver maple tȟahálo

A decoction of the bark is used to dye hides. The sap is sometimes
collected and used as a sweetener or refreshing beverage. An infusion of
the bark is used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and cramps.

3 Acer saccharum sugar maple čhaŋhásaŋ

Sap is collected in early spring by "tapping" trees and is used as a
sweetener. A decoction made from the inner bark is used as a
expectorant.

4 Achillea millefolium
Western yarrow,
common yarrow

ȟaŋté čhaŋȟlóǧaŋ,
tȟaópi pȟežúta

Poultice of dried leaves and flowers used to heal spider and other insect
bites. Wad of moistened leaves put in outer ear to cure earache. Poultice
made from whole plant applied to wounds to stop bleeding. Leaves
chewed for toothache. Leaves rubbed on irritated skin to relieve itching.
An infusion made from leaves used to treat stomach pains, coughing, and
sore throat. An infusion is also used to stimulate sweating and urination,
as a mild laxative, to cleanse/detoxify the blood, to cure female organ
problems and heal internal bleeding.

5
Achnatherum
hymenoides Indian ricegrass psíŋ

The seeds are edible when cooked. They are often ground into flour and
used to make bread or to thicken soups. The seeds are sometimes
roasted.

6 Acorus calamus
sweet flag,
bitterroot siŋkpé tȟawóte

A decoction of the roots is taken for fever, sore throats, coughs,
stomach problems, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Root
chewed for sore throat and toothache. Poultice of crushed root used
externally for muscle cramps. Root is chewed and then put onto one's
face to ward off fear in the presence of an enemy. Pulverized root
mixed with gun powder and made into a decoction, which is effective
against arm and leg cramps. Piece of root placed inside of cheek to ward
off bad spirits.

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167 Linum perenne wild blue flax čhaŋȟlóǧaŋ nabláǧa

Stem fibers are used as cordage. Flax seeds are added to all sorts of
foods for their delicious flavor and also for added nutrition. Flax seeds
are boiled and used as a thickener for soups and stews. They should not
be eaten raw, as they do contain cyanide, but it is eliminated through
cooking.

168 Linum rigidum

stiffstem flax,
large-flowered
yellow flax

áta sosapina,
nabláǧa čhaŋȟlóǧaŋ
nabláǧa The seeds are eaten after being roasted.

169
Lithospermum
caroliniense

hairy puccoon,
Carolina puccoon

pȟežúta wahesa,
pȟežúta hásapa

The powdered root is packed into chest wounds to stop bleeding and
prevent infection. A beautiful red dye is obtained form the dried and
powdered roots.

170 Lithospermum incisum
cleft gromwell,
narrowleaf puccoon pȟežúta sapsápa

The root is chewed to treat colds, lung hemorrhaging, and coughs. It is
also eaten as an oral contraceptive. An infusion of the root is used to
treat of stomach aches and kidney pain.

171 Lobelia siphilitica
lobelia, blue cardinal
flower

zuzéča tȟawóte,
úma/uŋmá wápe
tȟotȟó hé

The root is used to treat fluid retention, diarrhea, and dysentery. The
fresh root is used in conjunction with Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)
and Prunus virginiana (chokecherry), and then dusted the ulcers with the
bark of Ceanothus americanus . The Lakota also used the root as a love
charm by adding powdered root to the food of a person whom one was
trying to woo.

172 Lomatium cous cous biscuitroot
waȟčá zí
iyawicaskapa

The root is peeled and eaten raw or cooked. The root is also ground into
flour to be used as a thickener and to make bread.

173 Lomatium dissectum
bear root, fernleaf
biscuitroot matȟó tȟapȟéžuta

The fragrant and resinous root of this plant was used very much like
Ligusticum porteri. Some Lakotas believe that the plants were used
interchangeably depending upon availability. The root is sometimes
ground into flour to make breads, or may also be added to other foods
such as wasna (dried meat) and soups to give flavor.

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174
Lomatium
foeniculaceum

desert biscuitroot,
wild parsley,
carrotleaf parsley

šahíyela
tȟathíŋpsila huzízi,
waȟčá zí
iyawicaskapa

The dried plant is used in a love charm. The root is edible, but has a
strong flavor that is diminished through roasting. After roasting, it is
sometimes ground into flour to make breads or to thicken soups and
stews.

175
Lomatium
macrocarpum bigseed biscuitroot

šahíyela
tȟathíŋpsila hú

A tasty tea may be made from the stems and leaves. The root is a nice
edible, particularly when it is dried and ground into flour. It may also be
added to soups and stews, and is very nutritious.

176 Lomatium orientale
white flowered
parsley tȟathíŋpsila hú

The root is used for food. Roots are rubbed into hot ash to remove the
strong flavor and then eaten. The roots of most Lomatium species should
be gathered in early spring.

177 Lonicera spp. honesysuckle
čhaŋwískuye,
čhuŋwískuye

The flowers are used as a sort of candy. The nectar is sucked out of the
flowers because it is deliciously sweet.

178 Lotus purshianus

American
deervetch,
Spanish clover ziŋtkála tȟawóte

The seeds of deervetch make good forage for birds and rodents. The
whole plant provides nutritious feed for larger animals.

179 Lupinus sericeus
low lupine,
silky lupine čhaŋȟlóǧaŋ nabláya This plant is recognized as forage for deer and elk.

180 Lygodesmia juncea
skeleton plant,
prairie pink

čhaŋȟlóǧaŋ hú čháŋ,
swúla un hé
tuktéktel yuŋké,
makȟá čhaŋš’iŋhu

An infusion made from the whole plant is used for children with
diarrhea. The milky sap is sometimes chewed like gum and it is also
rubbed on mosquito bites to relieve itching.

181 Lysimachia thyrsiflora tufted loosestrife
čhaŋȟlóǧaŋ waȟčá zí
špaŋšpáŋžela

An infusion of the leaves and stems is used to treat dysentery and
diarrhea.

Page 50

Bibliography

Buechel, Eugene. Lakota – English Dictionary. 1983. Red Cloud Indian School: Pine Ridge.

Couplan, Francois. The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America: Nature’s Green Feast. 1998. Keats Publishing:

New Canaan.

Densmore, Frances. How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine and Crafts. 1974. Dover Publications: New York.

Densmore, Frances. Teton Sioux Music and Culture. 1992. University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln.

Gilmore, Melvin R. Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region. 1977. University of Nebraska Press:

Lincoln.

Johnson, James R. and Gary E. Larson. Grassland Plants of South Dakota and the Northern Great Plains. 1999. South

Dakota State University College of Agriculture & Biological Sciences: Brookings.

Kindscher, Kelly. Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie. 1987. University Press of Kansas: Lawrence.

Kindscher, Kelly. Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie. 1987. University Press of Kansas: Lawrence.

Larson, Gary E. and James R. Johnson. Plants of the Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mountains. 1999. South Dakota State

University College of Agriculture & Biological Sciences: Brookings.

Moerman, Daniel. Native American Ethnobotany. 1998. Timber Press: Portland.

Page 51

Interviews

Numerous interviews were conducted throughout the Great Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations. Many Elders did not

want credit for their contributions, and therefore they will remain nameless. However, I am endlessly thankful to them for

agreeing to pass on this sacred knowledge to the people. I vow to never misuse this knowledge and to keep passing it on

to the Next Generation. I hope that whoever reads this will respectfully do the same. I extend many thanks to the

following people, many of whom have already begun the journey on the Red Road – wopila tanka.

Zona Loans Arrow Gladys Hawk

Mary Louise Defender-Wilson Everette Jamerson

Bea Medicine Lavorra Jones

George Iron Shield Helmina Makes Him First

Keva Sitting Dog Earl Bullhead

Wilbur Flying By Alberta Crowe

Delores Taken Alive Imogene Taken Alive

Vernon Iron Cloud Vivian High Elk

Theo Iron Cloud . . . and almost 65 others who wish to remain anonymous.

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