Yucca glauca
family: Lily (Liliaceae)
> hestáhpánó'e, "braintanning plant"
matavó'ėstse (Petter 1915: 522), "cactus plants"; maybe more accurate ma'taavó'ėstse or mȧhtavó'ėstse, "wood plants"
Soapweed yucca (Great Plains yucca) is evergreen plant with lignifying flower stem. It often affects in clumps. Leaves are narrowly sword-like, 30 to 70 cm long, 10 to 18 mm wide, glaucous, white on margin, with sparse fibers. Bunch of flowers, 30 to 180 cm long, is composed of greenish-white bell-like flowers, 30 to 75 mm wide. It blossoms in May and June. Its fruits are flat black seeds, about 1 cm long, which ripen in bulky pods. It grows on dry soil in high plains, on winward sandy slopes, frequently on limestones. It ranges on the Great Plains from eastern Montana and northwest North Dakota to central Texas. It is sometimes planted as a decorative plant in the Czech Republic.
Inner part of yucca root was sliced and Cheyennes boiled a hair shampoo of it. The root were dried and stored. Cheyennes believed the yucca shampoo supported hair growth, helped against dandruff, prevented balding, etc. Wesley Whiteman, a Northern Cheyenne elder, said that women had long hairs after using it (Hart 1981: 12; Schwartz 1989: 53). According to Mary Fisher, a Northern Cheyenne herbalist, for furuncles, scabs, skin irritation, and sores caused with western poison ivy (Toxicodendron rydbergii), pulverized root was mixed with an unrecognized medicine and was applied in form of powder or wash (Hart 1981: 12). Wesley Whiteman mentioned the yucca pods were eaten (Schwartz 1989: 53).
Cheyennes, chiefly the southern bands, made fire sticks (both hearth board and drill) of yucca woody stem. The drill was pointed with a knife and a socket was made in the board. Although a man spun the drill by hands only, fire was made very quickly. The Southern Cheyenne war parties used such fire sticks still about 1870, when the warriors expended all matches. Cheyennes used dried rotten yucca roots as a touchwood to making fire (Grinnell 1923 I: 53–4). They made scuttles or baskets from yucca fibers for various seed games (Grinnell 1923 I: 332).
A Cheyenne oral tradition, which ethnographer Truman Michelson recorded about 1910 among Hevèškėsenėhpȧhō'hese (Closed-by-heat Aortas), a Cheyenne band, tells about first man and first woman tanning buffalo hide the first time:
After it was scraped thin, she put on brain with liver and rubbed them in. Then she left it outside to dry. She went out to draw water with a jug. She sprinkled the hide with water. The man said, "You go and dig out that soup-root [sic] (a high sticky brush on the hills)." She dug it out and chipped it fine, mixed it with water and rubbed it in the buffalo hide. She tied the hide to a tree and scraped it off with a stone knife (Moore 1987: 95).
Grinnell writes that the soapweed yucca root was peeled, pounded up fine, and well-mixed with pulverized brain, liver, and grease. This tanning mixture was applied to both sides of the hide. The hide was folded up and put aside overnight (Grinnell 1923 I: 216). Then the hide was washed in clear water, stretched, rid of moisture, softened, and smoked.
> literature