Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata) Ethnobotanical web page
Redwood City Seed Company
Box 361, Redwood City, CA 94064 USA
Sue and Craig Dremann, co-owners. (650) 325-7333
Growers of organic sweetgrass plants and dried unbraided sweetgrass leaves, since 1990
Text and photos are copyright
© 2009 by Sue & Craig Dremann, except where otherwise
Our main sweetgrass information page is http://www.ecoseeds.com/sweetgrass.html
We are looking for answers to Ten Sweetgrass questions >>>----->
1.) What is the name for sweetgrass, in a North American Indian language?
2.) How is the word pronounced?
3.) Does the word translate into something, into English?
4.) Any pictures that we can have permission to post, of traditional items made out of sweetgrass, like baskets, etc.
5.) Two traditional stories in particular about sweetgrass that we are looking for: The story of the origins of sweetgrass, and any stories about digging up and taking sweetgrass live plants with you, when your family or your village moved to a new site?
6.) Any archeological confirmations, that so-called wild stands of sweetgrass in the Americas, are all plantings, only found at ancient village sites?
7.) Anyone interested in funding the genetic work on the North American wild sweetgrass populations?
8.) What is the world's longest braid? So far, from Canada, 39.5 inches.
9.) Can you share any pictures of sweetgrass growing in your garden, for our new web page at http://www.ecoseeds.com/sweetstates.html ?
10.) Can you share any pictures of a wild stand of sweetgrass?
The sweetgrass stands in the Americas, could be looked at like thousands of years old time-capsules,
planted by the native peoples, and they could tell us an interesting,
Please call Craig Dremann (650) 325-7333 if you can share any information.
The name for sweetgrass, by North America language families?
--Algonquian - (Ojibway) - Wiingashk (pronounced ween-gushk) -- L. Redish..
--Athabaskan - (Dene/Chipewyan) -
Tl'otsen (pronounced similar to tl-ote-sen, but with a catch
after the "tl" sound.) --
--Caddoan - (Pawnee) - Kataaru (pronounced similar to kuh-tah-roo, but the "r" is like the short Spanish "r" in "pero.") -- L. Redish..
--Iroquoian - ?
--Kiowa-Tanoan - (Kiowa) - Ausodau (with an underline under the o) (pronounced aw-so-daw, but with a nasalized middle vowel) (Sometimes also spelled Ausondau or Asonda.) -- L. Redish..
--Penutian - ?
--Salishan - ?
--Siouan - (Lakota) - Wacanga (pronounced wah-chan-gah, only the "g" is pronounced gutturally like the "g" in Spanish "saguaro.") -- L. Redish
--Laura Redish, director, http://www.native-languages.org/
Languages references: The University of Texas library has scanned and posted on the web, the 1967 Smithsonian North American Indian language map by William Sturtevant, in two parts, West and East.
Stories about the origins of Sweetgrass, or stories about taking the plants from one place to another?
Cultural items made out of sweetgrass?
--BASKET, Micmac, sweetgrass and ash splints.
Photo copyright by Chichester Inc., who offers this basket for sale, phone 1.800.206.6544, http://www.chichesterinc.com/, used with permission. Basket shown 2X to see details.
--BASKET, sweetgrass braids and brown ash tree splints, Passamaquoddy.
Showing dried sweetgrass bundle, harvested from the salt marshes in Maine and the thin braids that will be used to produce the basket. Photo copyright Deborah Brooks, used with permission.
SEWING BASKET, Passamaquoddy, 7" inch diameter without lid handle, sweetgrass braids and brown ash splints. Photo copyright Deborah Brooks, used with permission.
Collar basket, 3" diameter, sweetgrass braids & ash splits.
This basket style was originally used in the Victorian period
to hold and protect men's detachable suit collars.These are available
in diameter sizes from 3" to 10".
The traditional braided frog handle gives each collar basket a unique quality. Photo copyright Deborah Brooks, used with permission. http://www.sweetgrassbasketry.org/baskets.html.
Work basket, brown
Work basket, natural Work basket, natural
WORK BASKETS: The artist writes, this is a premier style basket - a traditional design with a unique cover that is woven free-style, with no mold -- this cover is completely shaped by hand. This basket comes in many designs, with lots of braided sweetgrass and a very beautiful braided frog handle. Size is 10 1/2" Diameter x 9-10" Tall, with braided handle. Photos copyright Deborah Brooks, used with permission. http://www.sweetgrassbasketry.org/baskets.html
About making the baskets, Deborah Brooks writes: A smaller basket would require a very thin braid. Using a 3 strand braid, I would insert maybe only 1 or 2 strands of grass. On a larger basket like the workbasket, I might insert 2 or 3 strands of grass in the 3 strand braid.
The handles are called frog handles on the baskets - they use a lot of grass and I am one of the few remaining basketmakers of the tribe that can do the 5 strand braid of the frog handle. Many only use the 4 strand braid for the frog handle.
When braiding grass, I usually braid a coil about 50' to 100' long. I just keep using the coil until it looks like it will run out and then do another coil.
Passamaquoddy Weaver, Sweetgrass Basketry, Phoenix, AZ. Phone:
480-861-2396, Fax: 915-242-1039, http://www.sweetgrassbasketry.org/baskets.html
COILED SWEETGRASS, Open basket
By Cathryn Powell, southern California. I made this basket in a pine needle basketry class taught by fiber artist Nadine Spier. Her website is www.nadinespier.com. The class was lots of fun, also very complete and informative.
She [Nadine Spier] offered students the option of working with sweetgrass or pine needles. I chose the sweetgrass and loved the fragrance so much that I ordered 6 Supershamanistic plugs from the Redwood City Seed Company.
Last weekend I gathered my first harvest and dried it using the freeze drying method instructions also provided on your website. Now my workroom smells wonderful with the sweetgrass in here and I will soon begin another basket with my own sweetgrass.
Dimensions are 3 inches tall and 7 inches across,
the basket built around a polished stone called a cabochon, and
stitched with waxed linen thread.
--BOXES, with sweetgrass trim:
Ojibwe Keepsake Quill Box, contemporary, enlarged 3x. to show details. Artist - Cheryl Besito, Turtle Clan/Ojibwa .
Birch bark foundation with quills and sweetgrass.
Dimensions are 1.5" deep and 2.5 inches across. Example from
the Akta Lakota Museum gift shop, Box 89, Chamberlain, SD 57325
- (800) 798-3452 - http://www.aktalakota.org.
--see five other piece were for sale in 2010 by the same artist,
- Photo copyright by the Akta Lakota Museum, used with permission.
---BRAIDS, Canadian wildcrafted (shown above). Perhaps as many as 100,000 or more wildcrafted braids are harvested and braided in Canada each year, and is the major source of braids in North America, along with the coastal Maine harvests. Braids range from 1.5 to 3 feet long, with an average of 1.5 to 2 feet.
Braids over two feet are rare. The really long 36-40 inch (one meter+) braids, make up only about 1/10th of one percent of all the braids produced in a year, and are made only in certain areas, and are usually valued at $9-20 each.
World's longest braid measured so far, is one from Canada at 39.5 inches.
One Canadian braid source is Toni Hayes, P.O. Box 532 Minitonas, Manitoba R0L 1G0 Canada . Phone 204-281-1897 or email : email@example.com. Sweetgrass braids are 27 + inches long, braided by the Native Cree Indians from Manitoba Canada..
Braid image copyright Craig Dremann..
---BRAIDS, HOME GROWN by Pat Staggs, Kansas City, Kansas.
---BRAIDS, medium-scale home grown by Sam Martin in North Carolina.
Harvested 100 braids within four months after receiving
plants, and will have braids available, contact me at my wife's
email. Braids average
16-20 in. long.done in a tight braid. Picture above shows the
braid's nice color and the aroma is awesome.
The same size and diameter of a braid, but
unbraided and only tied at the end. Bundle photo, copyright Craig
---CAR AIR FRESHENER and potpouri bags. Sweetgrass dried and cut fine or run through the blender when dry, put into little bags with draw strings, and hung in cars as an air freshener, or ised as a potpouri.
---HAIR BRAIDS. Sweetgrass braided into very thin braids and worn in the hair, as Sharon Owens' granddaughter's friend shows us from Oklahoma:
---MASK, Abenaki, sweetgrass, ash splint, corn husk and corn silk.
Details about this mask at http://www.chichesterinc.com/AbenakiMasks.htm :
This mask is a one-of-a-kind museum piece that I purchased at the Abenaki reservation in Odanak, Quebec in July 2005 from Marguerite Panadis, who is liquidating her store as a result of an illness that set in around 2000. It was made by Marijean Gill about sixty to sixty-five years ago (circa 1940). It hung in Ms. Panadis's store on the reservation for the past 30 years.
The mask was old when Marijean Gill gave it to Ms. Panadis. It is called "La masque de bon danse." The mask of the good dance. It is a good luck mask. Marguerite claims that it brought her good luck over the years at her store. It is now hanging in my home in Toronto.
The mask is made using sweetgrass, ash splint, corn husk for the hair, and corn silk for the eye brows. The mask is in excellent condition.
To the best of Marguerite's knowledge, there is only one other mask extant--at the museum in Odanak. This is a true collector's piece. Madame Gill showed about 10 people on the reservation how to make this mask, including her own daughter. None of them used what they learned to make the masks. Madame Gill would not show Marguerite, a master basket maker, how to make this mask because she was afraid that Marguerite would make them and compete with her.
Madame Gill died in the late 1990s, at around 80 years old.
Note: The information in this webpage is from an interview with Marguerite Panadis by Paul Crosby at her home in July 2005. Picture by Paul Crosby and copyright is claimed. Item # R-35-AB - Abenaki Mask:Le masque de bon danse - Price US$75,000.00
Phone 1.800.206.6544, http://www.chichesterinc.com/, text and photo used with permission.
---MATS, clothing drawer. Sweetgrass woven into place-mat sized pieces, about 12" x 15" and placed at the bottom of clothing drawers, to keep clothes smelling fresh.
---OIL of SWEETGRASS. Dried sweetgrass leaves soaked in an oil for six months, then the oil retains the scent and can be used as an oil infusion, and for making sweetgrass scented soap.
Photo copyright by Chichester Inc., who offers three sizes of "sweetgrass people" for sale, phone 1.800.206.6544, http://www.chichesterinc.com/, used with permission..
---SCISSOR CASE -- see image at http://www.nativetech.org/basketry/sweetbas.html
---SHOT GLASS CASE -- see image at http://www.nativetech.org/basketry/sweetbas.html
---SOAP scented with sweetgrass. Dried sweetgrass leaves are soaked in oil, like olive oil for six months, and then made into a sweetgrass scented soap.
---THIMBLE CASE -- see image at http://www.nativetech.org/basketry/sweetbas.html
Photo copyright by Chichester Inc., who offers these sweetgrass turtles for sale, phone 1.800.206.6544, http://www.chichesterinc.com/, used with permission.
---WREATH, Christmas, made out of sweetgrass, for gifts and for indoor use, to make the home fill with the scent of sweetgrass.
(No photo yet).
Updated March 26, 2011