A History of Tobacco


When European settlers arrived and introduced the practice tobacco to Europe, the Native Americans had already used it for a long time. The history of tobacco extends almost as far back as agriculture, because at extremely high doses, tobacco becomes hallucinogenic. This helped tribal leaders and shamans in trances, apparently. In the eastern parts of North America, many tribes had their members carry it as a trading item, because it could be smoked in pipes during official or sacred ceremonies. It could be used to seal bargains, much like the Western cultures use handshakes or written contracts. It's found when studying the history of tobacco that Native Americans would have their members use the drug at all points of their life, even during the childhood years because they were unaware of the dangers that come from it. Tobacco was thought to be a sacred gift and tobacco smoke was thought to be able to communicate a person's wishes to the deities.

Tobacco is Common in the Americas


Among many indigenous peoples, religious use of tobacco is still quite common mostly in the peoples of the Americas. The Cree and Ojibway of Canada and the north central United States often offered tobacco to their deity with a prayer. Also, it's used in pipe ceremonies, sweatlodges, and can be presented as a gift. When an Ojibway elder is presented a spiritual question, a gift of tobacco is usually expected. Because of its sacred and respected nature, tobacco abuse (thoughtlessly and addictively chain smoking) is seriously frowned upon by the Algonquian tribes of Canada, as it is believed that if one so abuses the plant, it will abuse that person in return, causing sickness.


Uncured tobacco was often eaten, drunk as tobacco juice, or used in enemas as well as being smoked. Tobacco was also known to cause a high state of ecstacy, which was noted by early missionaries. Western cultures, when they began using tobacco, didn't use it in large quantities, or to get the hallucinogenic effects.

European History


The history of tobacco extends to the days of European colonization as well, having become a primary product fueling the colonization of the future American South. The initial colonial expansion was one cause of the first colonial conflicts with Native Americans, because it was driven by a desire to increase the production of tobacco, and became a driving factor for the use of African slave labor.

The Jamestown Settlement in Virginia saw John Rolfe arrive in 1609. He is credited to be the first man to give tobacco a use in commercial trade, which is how the colony at Jamestown thrived. Rolfe had some seeds with him from Bermuda that he had brough, because the tobacco that grew natively wasn't what the Europeans wanted.