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Native American Shadbush (Saskatoon) Mythology

The name "shadbush" does not have a Native American etymology (it is a compound word combining the English words "shad" and "bush"); however, the plant's alternate Canadian name, "saskatoon," comes from the Cree name mis‚skwatŰmin (pronounced similar to mih-sask-wa-toom-in,) which refers to a berry from this shrub (often called "saskatoonberries" or "serviceberries" in English.)

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Saskatoon berries play an important role in Native American culture as one of the main ingredients of pemmican, a kind of high-protein trail food used by many tribes while traveling. Blackfoot people made a sacred soup from saskatoon berries to be shared at special events. The serviceberry is also considered one of the sacred Life Medicines of the Navajo tribe. Shadbush roots and bark were sometimes used as medicinal herbs in a number of tribes, and among the Iroquois and Lenape, shadbush blossoms were seen as the sign that the right time had come to plant corn. To the Achumawi tribe of northern California, shadbushes played a more important mythological role, with humans being created from serviceberry wood and shavings.

Native American Legends About Shadbush

Silver-Fox and Coyote:
    Achumawi myth about the creator god Silver-Fox making people from serviceberry trees.

Recommended Books of Shadbush Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

When the Shadbush Blooms:
    Beautiful picture book by a Lenape author using shadbushes to illustrate Native American life in the past and present.
Native Plant Stories:
    Excellent collection of Native American stories about plant spirits, by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.
Native American Food Plants:
    Comprehensive book on the names and traditional uses of food plants throughout Native North America.



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