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Native American Cottonwood Tree Mythology

The cottonwood tree was sacred to many Native Americans, particularly in the Southwest. The Apache tribes considered cottonwood trees a symbol of the sun, and some northern Mexican tribes associated cottonwoods with the afterlife, using cottonwood boughs in funeral rituals. Cottonwood roots were used for carving kachina dolls, masks, and other ceremonial objects by the Hopi, Pueblo, and Navajo tribes. The cottonwood was also viewed as a medicine tree in many Plains Indian tribes, with sacred poles and sun dance artifacts often being made from cottonwood trunks and branches. Cottonwood bark and leaves were also used as medicinal herbs by many different tribes, particularly to treat wounds and swelling.

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Cottonwood trees are also used as a clan symbol in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Cottonwood Clans include the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico.

Native American Legends About Cottonwood Trees

*The Cottonwood Remembers:
    Tejas legend telling how the owl became the bird of death.
*The Girl Who Climbed to the Sky * The Star Husband:
    Arapaho legends about a celestial cottonwood tree.
*Apache Chief Punishes His Wife:
    Pueblo legend about a cottonwood tree that helps a wronged Apache chief.
*How Grandfather Peyote Came to the People:
    Sioux legend about a woman who made the first water drum from a sacred cottonwood tree.

Recommended Books of Cottonwood Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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Children of Cottonwood: Piety and Ceremonialism in Hopi Indian Puppetry:
    Anthropology book about the significance of cotoonwood carvings to Hopi religious life.
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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