Sassafras – A Key Resource of the Avoyel-Taensa Tribe

Avoyel-Taensa Tribe pic
Avoyel-Taensa Tribe
Image: avoyel-taensa.org

As a regional vice president with Primerica in Alexandria, Louisiana, Andre Dobison offers families pathways to debt-free living. Active in his community, Andre Dobison believes in and follows the Constitution of the Avoyel-Taensa Tribe/Nation of Louisiana.

When they migrated to Louisiana more than 10,000 years ago, the Avoyel-Taensa tribe of Native Americans settled in the rolling pine hills of Avoyelles Parish. As documented by a contemporary Avoyel-Taensa tribe member, one of the tribe’s most valuable traditional natural resources was the sassafras tree. A light, hardwood tree that grows as tall as 60 feet, sassafras has a variety of uses as a medicine, for cooking, and in creating fragrant household items.

The sassafras root was particularly prized, with young men of the tribe digging it up in the spring. After a thorough washing, the root was steeped in hot water and taken as a tonic for general health. The root could also be fermented as a form of wine or brewed with honey to make syrup. The leaves had an aromatic flavor that added seasoning to the traditional stew now known as gumbo. In addition, sassafras was a common aromatic used in candles and potpourris.