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Red Willow

Red Willow | Cansasa| Chan-SHAH-shah | Dakota Oyate

Cansasa has an important place in the lives and values of the Dakota Peoples. It is believed to connect people to the spirit world. Cansasa has a significant role in many ceremonies. Its strong, flexible branches are used as the frame for a sweat lodge, connecting the lodge and the ceremony to mother earth. The bark can be peeled off and boiled into a drink/tea to soothe stiff and aching joints. It also holds the base ingredient for Aspirin. Smoking it can help cleanse the body and relieve colds and can be used for a relaxing effect and relieve nausea. Chewing on the bark can help heal common eye infections and improves overall eye function.

The cooled liquid form creates a film that can be rubbed onto the skin to heal sores, scabs, eczema, insect bites, sunburns, and rashes. The roots can be dug up and mashed into a medicine to help with stomach aches. Cansasa is used in pipe ceremonies and as a gift of high regard among families, tribes and nations.

Different protocols exist among tribes and families around gathering and harvesting. Most gather during the wintertime, after the last thunder and before thunder comes back in the spring.

Cansasa teaches us that mother earth is our protector, the importance of kinship, to remember our ancestors, and the power of spirit.