If you have been exploring sacred medicines and the various herbs and plants traditionally used by the Indigenous peoples of North America, you may have come across a few opinions regarding the purchasing of sacred medicines. Some Indigenous people believe that sacred medicines should only be given as a gift and never sold in exchange for money, while others believe that the exchange of sacred medicines is more about the intention than how they are exchanged.
As with all subjects, there are a wide variety of varying opinions on the matter, and questions regarding the ethics of purchasing sacred medicines come up regularly for many Indigenous business owners. At Tribal Trade Co., we follow both what was taught to us by our Elders and what makes most common sense. Here, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about buying sacred medicines like sage, sweetgrass, cedar, and tobacco.
Why “Buying” Is Frowned Upon
Traditionally, the sale of traditional Indigenous goods like sacred medicines in exchange for cash was frowned upon because cash as currency was introduced by the settlers. Over many years, Indigenous people experienced repeated disappointments, witnessing the settlers break many promises and treaties.
Prior to the settlers arriving in North America, trade among the Indigenous peoples obviously did not include “cash”, and sacred medicines were typically traded for goods, labor, wisdom, or healing. Being exclusively used and most-valued by the settlers, Indigenous people understandably developed a strong negative association with cash.
Today, cash is an important resource for everyone, and many Indigenous business owners have been able to turn their love of sharing the Indigenous culture with their friends, family, and customers into a source of livelihood. Whether you trade sacred medicines for cash, goods, or labor, what is most important is your intention when using the medicines.
Using Sacred Medicines for Healing & Wellbeing
In the Indigenous culture, we believe that the sacred medicines are gifts given to us by the Creator and Mother Earth, and treat each with respect and integrity. The medicines were given to us for the purposes of healing, maintaining wellbeing, and connecting with the Creator and the Spirits.
The various sacred medicines each have their own specific uses, benefits, symbolic meanings, and significance to the Indigenous people of North America, and should be used according to their traditional uses. Some concerns over the sale of sacred medicines involve improper use, since some non-Indigenous people have and continue to misuse them.
As long as the buyer plans to use the sacred medicines for their intended purpose, we see no problem sharing these gifts with both our Indigenous and non-Indigenous friends, family, and customers. At Tribal Trade Co., we have helped thousands of people to find the perfect sacred medicine for them and have taught them how to use them respectfully for the purposes of cleansing, healing, and boosting their wellbeing.
If you are non-Indigenous, you likely picture a common garden variety when you imagine sage, but if you are Indigenous, you likely imagine White Sage. While both can be used for smudging, the most traditional and common variety to use is White Sage, which is indigenous to North America.
When gathering sage (and other sacred medicines) it is important to do so respectfully, which often means leaving something - like a small pile of dried tobacco - in thanks to the Creator and Mother Earth. Respectful harvesting also requires an eye for sustainability, which is why we are always careful to not over-pick our sage.
Sweetgrass braids are burned to call on the Good Spirit, and is typically used in prayer or for healing purposes. The braiding of the sweetgrass represents the strength of communal unity, and the sweet aroma of the smoke reminds us of the love, kindness, and gentleness of Mother Earth.
Cedar is typically used for smudging, in sweat lodges, as healing medicines in baths, or turned into cedar tea. At Tribal Trade Co., we create cedar smudge sticks, but we also like to educate on harvesting this sacred medicine yourself. Cedar trees are quite common in North America, so we like to make sure our followers know how to find and respectfully harvest the sprigs themselves.
The traditional uses of tobacco include gifting it to an elder in exchange for wisdom or spiritual guidance, burning it in a ceremony as an offering to the Creator, or leaving the dried leaves in thanks to Mother Earth for other sacred medicines. Traditional Indigenous tobacco is fully natural, contains no additives, and is never for recreational use. In fact, traditional tobacco use never includes smoking, since the smoke is not inhaled in a typical Pipe Ceremony.
Unfortunately, the misuse of tobacco is widespread, prompting the start of an initiative to Keep Tobacco Sacred. The purchase and sale of cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and other commercial tobacco products is frowned upon in the Indigenous culture, and considered disrespectful to the medicine. The sale of natural tobacco for traditional purposes is the same as the sale of other sacred medicines, and should always include respect and integrity for the gift of the plant.