White Spruce : Ethnobotanical Uses

Although white spruce is not used as much for modern medicine anymore, it was greatly valued for its medicinal purposes by northern Native American tribes.  Algonquin tribes in Quebec would make an infusion from bark for the treatment of coughs and “to heal the insides.”  They would also use the gum or resin from the tree as a laxative.  Eskimo and Cree tribes used the tree mostly for external purposes, such as using rotten wood as baby powder or to help with skin rashes.  They would also make a poultice, a soft material, from gum and resin to make bandages for scrapes, cuts and other wounds.  

The Algonquin, Cree, Eskimo, Micmac, Malecite, Koyukon, and Tanana tribes would also use the white spruce for everyday purposes like for fuel and shelter.  The roots of the tree were used as thread to sew snowshoes, canoes and baskets.  Bark sheets and boughs were utilized for flooring, roofing and siding materials to make huts, tents and cabins.  Fires were made with the wood and bark to cook food and smoke hide.  When warm, the pitch could be used as a glue to put feathers on arrows or as a sealant for canoes.  The Koyukon tribe in particular believed that the white spruce would keep away “dangerous spiritual forces” and sleeping under it would protect them.  The white spruce tree’s multiple features were integral parts of the daily lives of these northern Native American tribes.