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Kinnikinnick facts for kids

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Kinnikinnick is a Native American and First Nations herbal smoking mixture, made from a traditional combination of leaves or barks. Recipes for the mixture vary, as do the uses, from social, to spiritual to medicinal.


The term "kinnikinnick" derives from the Unami Delaware "mixture" (c.f. Ojibwe giniginige "to mix something animate with something inanimate"), from Proto-Algonquian *kereken-, "mix (it) with something different by hand".

By extension, the name was also applied by the colonial European hunters, traders, and settlers to various shrubs of which the bark or leaves are used in the mixture, most often bearberry (Arctostaphylos spp.) and to lesser degree, red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) and silky cornel (Cornus amomum), and even to Canadian bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), evergreen sumac (Rhus virens), littleleaf sumac (Rhus microphylla), smooth sumac (Rhus glabra), and staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina).

Indigenous names

  • Algonquin: nasemà, "tobacco" (mitàkozigan, "unmixed tobacco"; apàkozigan, "mixed tobacco")
  • Dakota and Lakota: čhaŋšáša
  • Menominee : ahpa͞esāwān, "kinnikinnick"
  • Odaawaa: semaa, "tobacco" (mtaaḳzigan, "unmixed tobacco"; paaḳzigan, "mixed tobacco")
  • Ojibwe: asemaa, "tobacco" (mitaakozigan, "unmixed tobacco"; apaakozigan, "mixed tobacco")
  • Shoshoni: äñ′-ka-kwi-nûp, "kinnikinnick"
  • Winnebago: roxį́šučkéra, "bark to smoke"

Preparation and use

The preparation varies by locality and nation. Bartlett quotes Trumbull as saying: "I have smoked half a dozen varieties of kinnikinnick in the North-west — all genuine; and have scraped and prepared the red willow-bark, which is not much worse than Suffield oak-leaf."

Eastern tribes have traditionally used Nicotiana rustica for social smoking, while western tribes usually use a variety of kinnikinick for ceremonial use. Cutler cites Edward S. Rutsch's study of the Iroquois, listing ingredients used by other Native American tribes: leaves or bark of red osier dogwood, arrowroot, red sumac, laurel, ironwood, wahoo, huckleberry, Indian tobacco, cherry bark, and mullein, among other ingredients.

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