Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

The dry, mealy fruit [of this plant] were eaten by both Upper and Lower Thompson (Teit: 1900: 232). They were usually eaten with bear fat or fish oil because they are so dry (AY). When HA was a little girl, she and her friend used to go out picking the berries. They washed them and fried them in hot lard or salmon oil. The berries would crackle and pop “just like popcorn.” HA said they were “really good,” and that they were the only kind of berry prepared and eaten like this. Frying the berries like this is called “hém=se?—me…
The leaves and young stems were boiled briefly or merely steeped in boiling water to make a beverage tea (Steedman: 1930: 493). They were dried and stored for this use. (Teit, 1900: 233). The raw leaves were chewed to alleviate thirst (MJ). The leaves were dried and toasted then used alone or mixed with tobacco (originally Nicotiana attenuata, later N. tabacum, “Whiteman’s tobacco”) for smoking in a pipe; they were preferred to any other tobacco additive (AY; JK; MJ; EJ; HA-SE; Steedman: 1930: 495). Too much kinnikinnick smoking was said to make one dizzy. EJ remembers seeing the old people smoke it when she was a child. They passed it around in a pipe, each taking just one or two puffs. Her mother prepared it for them...
A decoction of the stems and leaves was used as a wash for sore eyes. It was also drunk as a diuretic and tonic for the kidneys and bladder. Sometimes the root was used to prepare this decoction, which was also taken for spitting up of blood. HA-Se said that an infusion of the plant was used as a dink and external wash for broken bones, but this information may actually refer to Paxistiima myrsinites, which is named after kinnikinnick in Thompson.

-pp. 211- 212, Thompson Ethnobotany: Knowledge and Usage of Plants by the Thompson Indians of British Columbia by Nancy J. turner, Laurence C. Thompson, M. Terry Thompson & Annie Z. York (1990)


Kinnikinnick Bush