Traditional Tobacco

About Traditional Tobacco

Many of our Northwest tribes have their own tribal stories of how tobacco served tribal people through prayer –while other tribes grow and harvest the plant today. There is a difference between traditional and commercial tobacco use. The tobacco plant is sacred, and is used by many tribal nations for spiritual, ceremonial and medicinal purposes, whereas commercial tobacco is manufactured by companies for recreational and habitual use in cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco, cigars, hookahs, and other products –it is mass-produced and sold for a profit.

Photographs of tobacco (Yehnu) come from the Jeffries family (Yèsah/Occaneechi). This and other varieties have been grown by Yèsah families in the Piedmont region of North Carolina and Virginia since time immemorial. These leaves are traditionally pulled and tied into “handles” where they are cured over woodsmoke from pit fires.

Download the 2023 Tobacco Conference Agenda