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Ioway Cultural Institute : Culture : Traditions

Medicine Plants used by the Ioway and Otoe

Shinxowe (Sweetflat)

There is a small root often chewed by powwow singers and others to soothe the throat. This is Sweetflag, also called calamus (scientific name Acorus calamus). It grows in marshy ground.

The Ioway-Otoe word for it is shinxowe (sheen-KHOH-way), sometimes also pronounced chinkwe (CHEEN-kway). The meaning is shin "onion" + xowe "medicinal power/having a medicinal quality".

You can learn more about shinxowe, and see pictures of it, at:

Xanami (Sweetgrass)

Xanami is the Ioway-Otoe word for sweetgrass (Latin name Hierchloe odorata, or also Savastana odorata -an older term). The word is pronounced "kha-NAH-mee".

When I was doing my research on the Ioway sacred bundles, every bundle tended to have a big braid of sweetgrass in it. Some also had a plaited bunch of the grass, or a twist of it. Sweetgrass has a nice smell, and was used for purification and attached to sacred articles. You can also burn it to make a smudge to purify yourself, like cedar or sage.

For pictures and an excellent article on sweetgrass, see:

Haxoje (Sage)

The use of sage in ceremony involves the use of its smoke to smudge people and objects to purify them. The Ioway-Otoe word for sage is haxoje (HA-kho-je -rhymes with baxoje). The meaning is ha (skin, covering) + xoje (gray, ashes).

There are many different kinds of sage. It is important to know that when we are talking about "sage" in Indian ceremony, it is not the same as the sage used in cooking -they are two different plants, not closely related.

There are also different types of sage. The sage most often used by the Ioway-Otoe was white sage, or prairie sage (Artemisia ludoviciana). This is called "man sage" by the Cheyenne. There are other types of sage, including "woman sage" (fringed sage - Artemisia frigida) and "grandfather sage" (giant sage - Artemisia tridentata).

I have some white sage growing in my yard, and I sometimes make medicinal tea out of it (it tastes VERY harsh -not for enjoyment) if I have a bad flu or cold.

You can see a picture of white sage at: wikipedia.

Lance Foster

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