Red willow (alder)
Gwichya Gwich'in Name:
Teetł’it Gwich’in Name::
Annie Benoit of Aklavik says that scraping off the dark outer covering of the bark is an option before eating or boiling it. Medicine from red willow is considered as valuable as spruce gum tea. The bark can be collected year round from any size of red willow.
Effie Francis (COPE) preferred alder wood for drying fish:
In olden days when you make dry fish you used one kind of wood to burn under dry fish. They used to use only alder wood that is dry. Nowadays they just use any kind of wood they see.”
A boiled bark solution can be used to dye hides, skins, snowshoe frames and fish nets. Animal hides were soaked in the cooled solution for about a day to dye them red. Dyed caribou hides were used as trim for mitts.
Source: Andre, Alestine and Alan Fehr, Gwich'in Ethnobotany, 2nd ed. (2002)
A solution for skin conditions is made by peeling the bark off the stem and boiling it slowly until the liquid turns orange. Two minutes of boiling will produce a weak solution, and five minutes a strong one. Once cooled, the liquid, and the film that forms on the surface, is rubbed on skin to heal sores, scabs, eczema, insect bites, sunburns and rashes. Drinking the liquid, or rubbing it directly on the affected area, will soothe stiff and aching joints. A person can chew and swallow the juice of the round green cones or buds for colds and spit the buds out afterward. Buds, like bark, can be boiled slowly in warm water, and then strained through a clean white cloth. Some people drink about one cup of juice three times daily for colds, or apply it to sores. It can also be used for bathing to soothe eczema and rashes. The roots of red willow can be dug up, mashed and eaten to help with stomach aches.Source: Andre, Alestine and Alan Fehr, Gwich'in Ethnobotany, 2nd ed. (2002)
This alder is also called red willow because when the bark is peeled back, the remaining plant will turn red. The leaves can be chewed or crushed and put on bee stings to take away the sting or irritation. A mild alder tea is made and drunk for an upset stomach. Ruth Welsh said alder tea is used
...for upset stomach but you must not drink it strong. It has to be very mild.... And that's what you drink when you tend to have upset stomachs from overeating in particular.
The tea must be diluted until there is almost no bitterness.
Source: Andre, Alestine, Nan t'aih nakwits'inahtsìh (The Land Gives Us Strength) (2006)