Cedar - Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Ohkehteau (Plants of the Earth): A Shinnecock Oral History

Ohkehteau (Plants of the Earth): A Shinnecock Oral History - Cedar

Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
Native Flora Garden
Running time 1:39

Chikkup is our word for cedar. In my traditional homelands on the east end of Long Island, we use cedar in many forms. We make boxes and hair ornaments with cedar wood. The cedar boxes are often used to hold and preserve our sacred objects. I often use cedar as a gift to people. There are variations of cedar throughout the world. So the gift of cedar given intertribally is a very special thing, because each species is unique to people’s homelands. We pick the leaves directly off the cedar tree and brush ourselves to cleanse ourselves spiritually. We take the fresh leaves and boil them and allow the steam to smudge and purify our home. We also use the leaves to cleanse ceremonial fires. The oil from the tree is a natural insect repellent. As a matter of fact, the same oil that runs in the cedar tree is also found in the tail of an eagle and other birds of prey. You might be able to see an eagle picking at its tail, thinking that there's something in there, but they're actually getting the oil from its tail to cleanse its other feathers. We use cedar leaf and bark to cure many different types of illnesses. Our ancestors used cedar for cough medicine, tuberculosis, and fevers.

Plants of the Earth

Ohkehteau (Plants of the Earth): A Shinnecock Oral History highlights native plants around Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the ways that Indigenous peoples use and know them. On your self-guided tour, hear Chenae Bullock tell stories passed down to her and describe traditional uses for plants, including medicines that have been used for thousands of years

Hear all the stories.

“It’s hard to protect what you cannot recognize. This tour was made with good intent to share the value of the plants and in turn, protect our Earth.” —Chenae Bullock

  • A brown-skinned woman with indigenous face paint, beaded headband and feather earrings looks skyward

    Chenae Bullock is an enrolled Shinnecock Indian Nation tribal member and a descendant of the Montauk Tribe in Long Island, New York. Chenae is a community leader, water protector, cultural preservationist, Indigenous perspective historian, and humanitarian and has worked at many accredited Indigenous museums. She is the author of 50 Plant Medicines: Indigenous Oral History and Perspective, on which this exhibit is based.

Image, top of page: Chenae Bullock