Entry Detail

dogbane, indian hemp

Entry Type:  
Scientific Name:  
Common Name:  
dogbane, indian hemp
Myaamia Name:  
Harvest Seasons:  
Winter, Spring
Deciduous Swamp no coniferous domts.

Media not available.
Myaamia Archival Sources  
Reference Source Reference Type Archival Data Comments
Rafert, S. 1992 No Reference Specified

Used for cordage in contemporary Myaamia community: 4-5 stalks used to make about 1.5 feet of cordage. Cordage is made into nets for weir, fishnet--cordage made into a net by wrapping cordage pieces around an end piece of cordage, so that the two ends hand down next to each other, and then tying two of those at regular intervals with a square knot, forming diamond-shaped openings.

Thwaites, R.G. (ed.) 1886-1901 No Reference Specified

"They [the Illinois] take little trouble to make nets suitable for catching fish in the rivers, because the abundance of all kinds of animals which they find for their subsistence renders them somewhat indifferent to fish. However, when they take a fancy to have some, they enter a canoe with their bows and arrows, they stand up that they may better discover the fish, and as soon as they see one they pierce it with an arrow".

Blair, E 1911 No Reference Specified

"A game of ball with rackets of the Algonquian and Iroquoian tribes of the Atlantic seaboard and region of the Great Lakes, much like Lacrosse--played with a single racket which was curved at the end and netted".  Netting for modern native lacrosse is dogbane, basswood, nettles or another strong fiber.

Blair, E 1911 No Reference Specified

"There is among them a certain game, called crosse, which has much likeness to our game of long tennis . . . You will see them all equipped with the crosse--which is a light club, having at one end a broad flat part that is netted like a racket".

Rountree, H. C. 1989 No Reference Specified

Baskets were made from cornhusks, as well as from the tree bark and a grass-type plant erroneously called 'pemmenaw' which means 'rope' or 'thread'. The grass was actually a wild hemp and flax that the English commonly called 'silk grass', which referred to the the beaten dried peel of an Apocynum cannabinum (Indian hemp) which made a soft, shiny fiber. The Indians dyed and wove this fiber into baskets and tumplines, which were about a hands wide in the middle across the chest and ends in two long strings to hold their materials at their backs.


Dunn, J.P. ca. 1900 No Reference Specified

Dogbane used for making thread.

Thwaites, R.G. (ed.) 1903 No Reference Specified

 "I have observed that Hemp grows naturally in that Country, and that they make Tarr and Pitch toward the Sea-Coast".

Gatschet, A.S. ca. 1895 No Reference Specified

"sápa kwapahakane" dip-net

Le Roy, Claude-Charles (Bacqueville de la Potherie) 1722 No Reference Specified

Apocynum cannabinum was by the Swedes called Hemp of the Indians; and grew plentifully in old corn grounds, in woods on hills, and in high glades. The Swedes had given it the name of Indian hemp, because the Indians formerly, and even now, apply it to the same purposes as the Europeans do hemp; for the stalk may be divided into filaments, and is easily prepared.

Raudot, A.D. 1904 No Reference Specified

"The women gather, spin and twist lengths of cordage on their bare thighs. The cords used to draw these nets are made of the bark of basswood or leather. With these nets many fish and beaver are captured. They also fish with still lines".

Outdoor Indiana 1988 No Reference Specified

An ancient fish weir/dam is described in Outdoor Indiana, July/August 1988.

Gonella, M.P 2003-2006 No Reference Specified

The name for lacrosse is ahsapa tawaani meaning net stick, and the word for the net is the same as the word for dogbane, since the net was made from dogbane or similar fiberous material.



Gonella, M.P 2003-2006 No Reference Specified

"There is a place on the Wabash River where there is an old fish weir still visible, probably from the old Miamis".

Dunn, J.P. ca. 1900 No Reference Specified

"a rush used for weaving"

National Museum of the American Indian 2003 No Reference Specified

There are three Myaamia items made of hemp, possibly dogbane or nettles, including a sack, medicine pouch and necklace cordage. These are all housed at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.



Cranbrook Institute of Science 2003 No Reference Specified

There are 2 items that are possibly made with plant fibers, which could include dogbane, nettles or basswood, among others, at the Cranbrook Institute in Michigan.

Gravier, J. ca. 1700 No Reference Specified

'hemp cord' waapahsapiiki (plural)

Botanical Sources  
Reference Source Reference Type Data Comments
Thwaites, R.G. (ed.) 1903 Ecological Info 

Indian hemp grew abundantly in the Miami-Illinois country.

Burton, C., Stevens, B. 1915 Habitat 

La Salle was one of the first to note the name of a tributary to the upper portion of Illinois River, called masaana [rope] siipiiwi, which is the present day Kankakee River, so named for the surrounding land of present day Mazon, (McCafferty 2004) where he noted a great quantity of hemp growing.

"En suivant la rivie`re de Teatiki [Kankakee] depuis le confluent du Checagou [Des Plaines River] on trouve environ neuf lieues durant, le plus beau paysage du monde. Les Sauvages l'appellent Massane, a cause de la grande quantite de chanvre."

McCafferty's translation:  "In following the Kankakee river from the Des Plaines confluence one finds
in the course of about nine leagues the most beautiful country in the world. The Wild People call it Massane because of the great quantity of hemp."

Massane may indicate one of a number of fiber-bearing plants. From McCafferty (2004, pers. comm.): Cree /masa:n/ 'nettle, thistle' Menominee /masa:n/ 'thistle Shawnee /ma0aana/ 'thorn' (0 = th) Western Abenaki mazo^n 'Indian hemp' (o^ = o with a circumflex atop it) Fox /masaana/ (I have no gloss for this.) Ojibwe /maza:n/ 'nettle, burdock' Both Apocynum cannabinum and Urtica spp. contain long, strong fibers used by indigenous gropus for cordage, etc. – Michael Gonella
Gleason, H.A. and Cronquist, A. 1991 Habitat 

Occurs in open places throughout eastern and western Myaamia lands.

Imlay, G. 1792 Ecological Info 

Apocynum cannabinum was documented as present in North America in 1792.

Related Sources  
Reference Source Reference Type Data Comments
Coulter, S. 1932  

Dried rhizome and roots in doses of 0.3-1.2 gm may be used similarly to Digitalis, for in weakness of heart and improving artery strength. Dangers in its use are its irritation to the gastrointestinal tract and potential of cumulative action.

Densmore, F. 1974  

Spreading dogbane (A. androsaemifolium) was used by the Chippewa as a medicine, for heart palpitation, earache, headache, a baby's cold, also as a charm to counteract evil charms. Dogbane (unspecified species) was used for a cough. The root was also combined with root fibers of white snakeroot (Eupatorium perfoliatum) and applied to a deer whistle.

Kalm, P. 1771  

"When the Indians were yet settled among the Swedes, in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, they made ropes of this apocynum, which the Swedes bought, and employed them as bridles, and for nets. These ropes were stronger, and kept longer in water, than such as were made of common hemp. The Swedes commonly got fourteen yards of these ropes for one piece of bread. Many of the Europeans still buy such ropes, because they last so well. The Indians likewise make several other stuffs of their hemp. On my journey through the country of the Iroquese, I saw women employed in manufacturing this hemp. They made use neither of spinning wheels nor distaffs, but rolled the filaments upon their bare thighs, and made thread and strings of them, which they dyed red, yellow, black, etc., and afterwards worked them into stuffs, with a great deal of ingenuity. The plant is perennial, which renders the annual planting of it altogether unnecessary. Out of the root and stalk of this plant, when it is fresh, comes a white milky juice, which is somewhat poisonous. Sometimes the fishing tackle of the Indians consists entirely of this hemp. The Europeans make no use of it, that I know of."

Blair, E 1911  

"The obligations of women are to . . . to make twine, in order to provide nets for the men".

Thwaites, R.G. (ed.) 1886-1901  

"They [the Iroquois] also have excellent hemp, which grows wild, and in quality and appearance is much superior to ours".

Rafert, S. 1989  

Fish nets, possibly made of dogbane fibers, were used at the mouth of these weirs. Lamoine Marks told Rafert that before the commercial nets, basket nets were made from bark, mostly the inner bark of the slippery elm, or red elm, and these were used at the weirs.

Rafert, S. 1989  

In old times Myaamia fishermen used fishnets and baskets to catch fish. In more modern times Miami fishermen [like Charlie Marks, 1870-1946, Lamoine's father] used commercial seine nets and spears.

Gatschet, A.S. ca. 1895  

"Fishing nets were invented by Michabou, as it was the spider's web which gave him the first idea of it".

Dunn, J.P. 1908  

Gabriel Godfroy said that the Miamis used not nets or seines for fishing, but used spears, bows and arrows instead, and sometimes used movable weirs made of "wattled brush" and grape vines when fishing in a party, which they would force the fish to the shore.

Burns, N.L. 1938  

 "It grew here [northeastern Oklahoma] and after peeling the bark the body of the weed could be separated into very fine threads which are very strong and durable. The bark is white and the plant grows about two feet high".

Thwaites, R.G. (ed.) 1886-1901  

"There are meadows ten or twenty leagues broad, encompass'd with fine forests, behind which are other meadows, in which grass grows six foot high. Hemp grows naturally in all that [Miami-Illinios] country".

Dunn, J.P. ca. 1900  

 Dunn recorded the [Miami-Illinois] terms for fishnet as "kikonässa sápa", or "sapáhakánĭ"

Gonella, M.P 2003-2006  

Gravier gave the term "8abassapiki" as plural for 'hemp cord'; "espece de chamvre dont on fait des cordes asses blanches"; Pinet gives "8abasapiki" and glosses this "corde dorties"; both represent phonemic waapahsapiiki.

Whitford, A. C. 1941  

Both Apocynum androsaemifolium and A. cannabinum, were both probably used for fibers, the latter tending to have longer, straighter stems and thus potentially longer fibers. Pieces of fabric attributed to the Hopewell and Adena culture of Ohio were made using Apocynum fibers and a fish net was made by the Nanticoke. Older specimens have less processed fibers, whereas more recent Indian material is well broken down with fine fibers for thread or cordage.

Rafert, S. 1989  

An ancient fishing weir dam still exists on the Wabash River, northeast of Peru, Indiana and was and is known to most Myaamia fishermen. Lamoine Marks was told about it when he was a boy, by his father Charlie and last saw it while fishing in winter in 1953. Rafert and Marks rediscovered it in July, 1988.

Costa, D. 2022  

The Fox cognate for ahsapa is asapya, and the Shawnee cognate is waaphθapya.