Western Red Cedar

Secwepemc name:  estqwllp OR astqw 

Very culturally-important tree.  The wood was used to carve paddles, tools, and a variety of implements. Cedar bark was used to make roofing for homes, and a variety of smaller objects such as bowls, mats, trays, rope, etc. The roots were extremely important as a basket-making material, and were also valued as a trade good for that purpose.

Cedar bark sheets were sometimes tied at the ends to make an elongated dish for broth and other foods. The inner bark is then divided into strips and woven into mats, or trays for enclosing food to be pit-cooked. Whole slabs of cedar bark were used for roofing, both for old-style pit-houses and for temporary shelters and cabins. Cedar root baskets were used for various purposes, such as storing clothing.

Mary Thomas also recalled that her mother used to keep a big pot of cedar or Rocky Mountain juniper tea boiling on the stove all through the winter. This acted as a vaporizer and air freshener, but it was also drunk: “That is drinkable too, lots of vitamins [including vitamin C].” The wood is a good fuel, especially for kindling. Some people say it is good for smoking hides because of its low pitch content. Other traditional uses included construction (where it was available), and raw material for spoons, paddles, river poles, fish spearing poles, and drying racks for meat and fish. Mary Thomas and others used to make cedar shakes from the wood, and these were sold as a source of income. The wood is easily split and rot-resistant, making it ideal for such uses.

Ecological requirements: Moist, wet soils at lower elevations.  Prefers rich soil but tolerates shade.  Low resistance to drought and frost.

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