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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: kinnickinnic

Definition:

the English phoneticization of an Ojibwe word usually translated as "tobacco," but in fact typically meaning a blend of tobacco with local bark or grasses. Sometimes written as "kinickinick".

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft left this description of it in 1820:  "...we here first noticed a creeping plant called kinni-kinick by the Indians, which is used as a substitute for tobacco. This plant appears to have escaped the notice of the indefatigable Pursh nor do I find any description of it in Michaux, or Eaton  [19th-c. botanists]. It is a creeping evergreen with an ovate leaf, of a deep green colour, and velvet-like appearance, and is common to sandy soils. I suspect it to be a new variety of chimaphila. The Indians prepare it by drying the leaf over a moderate fire, and bruising it between the fingers so that it, in some degree, resembles cut tobacco. In this state it is smoked, and is very mild and pleasant. They, however, prefer mixing it with a portion of the common tobacco (nicotiana tobacum) or perhaps it is done with a view to economy. As the kinnikinick only flourishes on sandy grounds, it is not always to be procured, in which case they employ other substances, the most common of which is the bark scraped off the small red twigs of the acer spicatum, or maple bush. Certain species of willows are also resorted to."

[Source: Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Narrative Journal of ...the expedition under Governor Cass in the year 1820 (Albany : E. & E. Hosford, 1821). ]
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