Tobacco has long held a sacred and prominent role among the Indian tribes in the southeast. Well before Christopher Columbus returned with tobacco seeds from the Caribbean or Sir Walter Raleigh made smoking fashionable in Europe when he returned from Carolina with a pipe and tobacco, Indians had universally integrated tobacco into their religious, social, and cultural ways of life.
Tobacco had many ceremonial uses. Indians used the green leaves of tobacco as a way to purify oneself before a ceremony and placed tobacco at the base of a fire pit when it came time to create a new fire. Tobacco was also offered to the spirits for appeasement and thanks; being thrown into the waters, ground, and air for good fishing, hunting, and travels among other things.
Tobacco was commonly used as direct medicine for ailments like snake bites or bee stings and as part of other roots and plants that were mixed together to form a cure. Tobacco even had a higher standing among other medicines since it was always mixed in boiling water or a bowl first before other ingredients were added.
Socially, both men and women smoked tobacco using clay pipes. Even though smoking was considered common among the Indians, the act of smoking from a ceremonial pipe when discussing matters of state took on an air of ceremony when all parties present smoked from the same pipe and blessed the words spoken as truth.
Indians raised a different variety of tobacco than the West Indies variety currently used worldwide. They also used the sun to cure the leaves. - Dante Desiderio