BENEFITING: WELLNESS INTEGRAL INC
Sacred tobacco is a very special plant for Native Americans. It is a powerful plant. While impossible to directly translate its role in traditional society to non-natives, it is a sacrament, the means of communicating directly with the Creator, of making prayer.
This project will seek out rare Native American tobaccos, grow them, create a repository for preservation, redistribute seed and tobacco leaf to native people, and enhance the availability to them.
There are many Indians who desperately want to have access and connection with this plant and cannot do so easily.
Some varieties are in danger of disappearing, some merely repetitions of others. Virtually none from temperate North America are preserved with the exception of the work of Native Seed Search in Arizona.
There is a need for sacred tobacco leaf and seed supply to Indians, particularly those disconnected to the land who are no longer practicing agriculture. When I ran the Eastern Native Seed Conservancy, where a portion of our work was focused on Indian plants and people, I frequently received requests for seed and leaf from Indians, particularly those incarcerated in prison, sometimes accompanied by sad stories in their letters.
I feel it is important to rekindle this work that I did, expand it, and reach out to Indians who want these resources back and can use some help. The need for this kind of conservation work has diminished in the last ten years, yet huge gaps remain and this is one of them.
There was recently an active seed bank for rare tobaccos, TNAT, run by Joe Winter, a former anthropology professor in New Mexico. Unfortunately Joe Winter died in a hiking accident a few years ago at the too young age of 61.
The seed had seemed secure.
His family unfortunately threw out his papers, books and the tobacco seed.
I learned this when I tried to find him and get some seed of varieties I had donated to the tobacco seed bank years ago.
It's an old story I've heard many times before on the seed trail. Resources disappearing, unrecognized and unappreciated. They really do disappear. Often forever.
That's really sad in a world where there are so many resources and so much money to do good.
Here's a chance to save a few more varieties that are not on everyone's radar, that generally won't get picked up by seed companies, or most seed banks, while directly serving the first Americans
By Lawrence Davis-Hollander, former founder and Director of the Eastern Native Seed Conservancy, ethnobotanist, plantsman, garden writer, etc.
Additional Notes: Sacred tobacco (Nicotiana rustica) while a close relative of the smoking tobacco used in cigars and cigarettes, is a different species of plant with very different usage and cultural affiliations. Sacred tobacco is not smoked like cigarettes, although it may be an admixture with other herbs in some ceremonial practices. This tobacco is very potent with a strong nicotine content and thus cannot be used as a smoking tobacco.
A few people who are smokers have requested sacred tobacco from me, and paid no attention to my admonition not to inhale. Subsequently, after smoking it they asked me to never give them this tobacco again as it was way too potent.