For thousands of years, coyote and other types of wild tobacco have provided what many consider a versatile healing remedy and meditative, spiritual channel to the Creator. Much of the botanical lore was muddled, however, with the arrival of Europeans and subsequent cultural upheaval.
WSU researchers Shannon Tushingham and David Gang ’99 PhD are using a combination of archeology and high-end molecular chemistry to help identify and restore wild tobacco and other indigenous smoke plants used by Northwest Native groups.
Their work also supports a nationwide effort to design culturally-sensitive smoking cessation programs that emphasize the differences between traditional and commercial tobacco use.
Tushingham, assistant professor of anthropology, says tobacco use originated in South America, but exactly when remains a mystery. “We know some tobacco species were domesticated and used by North American Indians in farming communities about 3,000–4,000 years ago,” she says.