Sweetgrass is a fragrant plant which grows in abundance in the damp fields of Manitoulin and other rural areas. Sweetgrass is considered a sacred medicine – the hair of Mother Earth – by most tribes in North America and is often burned as part of the cleansing or “smudging” ceremonies at the start of the day and at most meetings and gatherings.
Sweetgrass Box with Quill Work
Sweetgrass is collected in the early summer, sorted and softened by briefly soaking in boiling water. It is then usually braided and or hung in bundles to dry. Once dried it is wrapped in cloth and stored for ceremonial and personal use. Many people carry braids of sweetgrass with them on their person or in their cars and place it in their home and other special places.
It is an important material in the construction of quill boxes and baskets. Bundles of sweetgrass are sewn around the edges of the birch bark containers which helps strengthen the rims and corners and allows the lids to fit more snugly.
There are many beautiful examples of porcupine quillboxes on display and for sale at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation and at Lillian’s Porcupine Quillbox Museum in M’Chigeeng.