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Native American Birch Tree Mythology

The birch tree was of great importance to Native American peoples due to its tough, flexible, highly waterproof sheets of bark. Birchbark has been used by Native Americans for everything from papering the exteriors of canoes and houses to making baskets, artwork, and maps. In some Ojibwe (Chippewa) communities, birchbark was said to be a sacred gift from the culture hero Wenabozho and was used to ceremonially wrap the bodies of the dead for burial. Ojibwe folklore has it that birch trees are immune to lightning strikes, and that therefore these are good trees to take shelter under during a thunderstorm.

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Birch trees are also used as a clan symbol in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Birch Clans include the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico, whose Birch Clan is named Nana or Nana-tdoa.

Native American Legends About Birch Trees

*How the Birch Tree Got Its Burns:
    Ojibwe legend about the birch tree helping Nanabozho steal fire for the people.
Why the Indian Birch Wears Slashes in its Bark * A Birchbark Story:
    Blackfoot stories about the origin of striped birch bark.
*The Legend of the Birch Tree:
    Odawa legend about a young man who became the first birch tree.

Recommended Books of Birch Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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Strength of the Earth: The Classic Guide to Ojibwe Uses of Native Plants:
    Book of Ojibwe medicine traditions regarding birch trees and other woodland and prairie plants.
Native Plant Stories:
    Excellent collection of Native American stories about plants, by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
Native American Ethnobotany:
    Comprehensive book on the names and traditional uses of trees and other plants throughout Native North America.
*Sacred Trees:
    Interesting book on the role of trees in world mythology and spirituality, including Native North America.
The Meaning of Trees: Botany, History, Healing, Lore:
    Another good book about the folklore and cultural symbolism of trees worldwide.

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