Santo Domingo Tobacco

Botanical name:

Nicotiana rustica

Collection site:

Santo Domingo Pueblo, Sandoval County, New Mexico.

Collection date:

1978

Historical origins:

Tobacco is native to the Americas. Wild and domesticated forms have been used by people throughout the area for millennia. Archaeological evidence for the use of tobacco in ancient times comes from the recovery of tobacco seeds and residues as well as pipes from archaeological sites throughout the American Southwest.

Cultural uses:

Native American groups have traditionally used tobacco for various medicinal and ceremonial purposes. Tobacco leaves can be made into a poultice for relieving the inflammation and pain associated with eczema, skin rashes, and rheumatism. Rattlesnake and insect bites have been treated with tobacco poultices, which are thought to be efficacious in drawing out the poison and aiding with pain relief. Chewed leaves can then be applied to the bite or sting to further reduce swelling. Additionally, tobacco has often been smoked to clear the nasal passages of those suffering from colds.

Tobacco is a very important plant to many other Native American groups. In general, tobacco is used for prayer, protection and healing. For example, the Navajo make use of tobacco for certain ceremonies, such as rituals which bless the house and the family. It is common for tobacco to be burned around the circumference of the house, as well as blown over family members inside.

Santo Domingo Tobacco, and other varieties, are associated with the Puebloan people of the Rio Grande area of New Mexico. Tobacco is traditionally used by Pueblo priests at rain ceremonies, being mixed with other wild herbs whose smell was believed to be sacred. The mixture is smoked in a clay pipe or cornhusk cigarette. By blowing smoke clouds, it is said that the attention of the powers that send the rain are gained.

Cultivation techniques:

Tobacco was traditionally grown in irrigated gardens by Puebloans. The seeds are tiny and should only be lightly covered with soil. In addition to the medicinal and ceremonial uses, tobacco can be used as an organic insecticide. When it blooms, it is also a wonderful plant to attract pollinators and beneficial insects to a garden.

References:

Underhill, Ruth. (1991). Life in the Pueblos. Santa Fe, NM: Ancient City Press.

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