Studying Indians

Densmore Frances Densmore (1867-1957) was born in Minnesota. She studied music at Oberlin College and taught music on Indian reservations. In 1907 she began recording Native American music for the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of American Ethnology. In 1926 she wrote a book, Indians and Their Music.

In 1974 Frances published a book titled How Indians Use Wild Plants. She studied the Chippewa people of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada. For example, a headache could be treated with a plant called dogbane.

Four pieces of dogbane root, each about the size of a pea, were crumbled into powder with a rock. It could be used in three ways. (1) The person with a headache snuffed the powder into his nose. (2) Powdered root was sprinkled on a hot stone and the person covered his head with a blanket to inhale the dogbane fumes. (3) Small cuts were made in the person’s temples. Powdered dogbane root was mixed with a little water and applied to the cuts with a duck down feather.


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