Native Americans and Cannabis: A Cultural Connection

Native Americans and Cannabis: A Cultural Connection

Cannabis has a long and storied history in the Americas, dating back thousands of years. Native Americans are among the many groups that have used cannabis for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Let's take a closer look at the history of cannabis use among Native American tribes.

Medicinal Use

Many Native American tribes used cannabis for medicinal purposes. The Iroquois used a decoction of the roots and stems of the plant to treat arthritis, while the Ojibwe used a mixture of cannabis and bear grease to treat burns and wounds. The Cherokee also used cannabis to treat pain and inflammation.

Spiritual Use

Cannabis was also used for spiritual purposes. The Lakota used it in their Sun Dance ceremony to help participants endure the pain of ritual self-mutilation. The Native American Church, which was founded in the late 19th century, uses a tea made from cannabis buds in their peyote ceremonies.

Cannabis Prohibition and Cultural Suppression

Despite the cultural significance of cannabis to many Native American tribes, the substance has been heavily stigmatized and criminalized in the United States. Native American tribes were among the many groups that suffered under the federal government's War on Drugs, which criminalized cannabis in 1970.

The suppression of cannabis use among Native Americans is part of a larger pattern of cultural suppression and erasure. Native American spiritual practices were often criminalized by the US government, and many traditional ceremonies were banned until the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978.

Today, some Native American tribes are beginning to re-embrace their cultural connection to cannabis. The Navajo Nation, for example, recently passed a resolution calling for the legalization of cannabis for medical and industrial use.


The use of cannabis has a long and complex history among Native American tribes. While the substance has been stigmatized and criminalized in the United States, many tribes continue to value cannabis for its medicinal and spiritual properties. As cannabis legalization continues to gain momentum across the country, it is important to recognize and honor the cultural connection between Native Americans and this ancient plant.

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