James McCormick
Alestine Andre, GSCI
Gwichya Gwich'in Name: 
Teetł’it Gwich’in Name:: 
Latin Name: 
Salix species
As fuel
The small, dry twigs found among branches on the willow tree are good for starting fires. Mary Francis (COPE,c) said that willow was used to make smoke for drying meat. 
As food
In the spring, the Gwich’in peel bark from the new shoots and lick the sweet juice, chew the stem or eat the tips. Annie Norbert said,

           Mrs. Norris used to eat the pussy buds just like that.

As tools
Beaver pelt stretchers are made with willows, and in summer, the spring for high set rabbit snares can be made by bending over a thick willow. In winter the “spring” willow is replaced with a pole. Mary Francis (COPE, c) and Roddy Peters (COPE) both indicated that fish traps used to be made with willow poles that were stuck into the bottom of a river or creek. Paul Bonnetplume (COPE) and Elijah Andrew (COPE, a) both described how willow bark was used to make fish nets. Willow roots were used for mending and constructing snowshoes, smokehouses, canoes and nets. Mary Francis (COPE, c) described that in the days before metal cutlery, willow was used to make spoons and forks. 
As flooring
Willow branches are good among ah’ (spruce boughs) in a tent. The brush does not dry up as quickly and it smells nice too.Willows can also be used as temporary flooring until spruce boughs can be gathered. Mary Kendi of Fort McPherson said that her grandmother used to knit willows into rugs for around the stove. Willows also make a good mat for outside the tent door. 
As musical instruments
When Elijah Andrew (COPE, b) made his drums, he used willow branches for the frames. Whistles can be made from new, hard willow stems.
As games
Annie B. Robert described a game using rings made from willow branches. The ring was thrown into the river, and then children ran along the bank trying to catch the ring with a stick.
As medicine
The bark from young shoots can be peeled into strips, wrapped around a cut like a bandage and tied in place with a cloth. The white inner bark from young shoots can be made into a poultice and used as a pain-killer on wounds. Any kind of green willow leaves can be crushed and chewed and applied to insect bites, burns, rashes, aches, cuts and toothaches. Some people prefer to use leaves that are white on the underside. 

Source: Andre, Alestine and Alan Fehr, Gwich'in Ethnobotany, 2nd ed. (2002)


All the different types of willows are used in the same way except alder. The bark and leaves of willows are used to treat pain or to relieve insect bites. In the summer, willows leaves are chewed and applied to bee stings right away. The leaves are also crushed between the fingers and a drop of water could be added to provide moisture and crushed some more until it turns into a fine poultice. This is put on the bee sting, black fly bites or rash and sores around the ankle or hairline. The poultice will draw the infection out, help ease the pain from the sting, or reduce the swelling from stings and bites.

Ruth Welsh commented on willow,

"We use all the willows the same. We use the bark and the leaves. The bark, we make a tea out of it - again, you just  bring it to a boil and let it steep. You put quite a bit of bark in it because you want to dilute your tea. But we use that for headaches [and] for pain. It's a pain reliever, the willow is. And the leaves for poultices, especially...first and foremost, the older people wanted something for the bee stings or anything painful like that, they would go for the willow leaf first, then the [leaves of other plants]."

Source: Andre, Alestine, Nan t'aih nakwits'inahtsìh (The Land Gives Us Strength) (2006)


Making a Fish Net with Willow (1)
To weave a net made of willow, the following are a number of items one must have: fresh willow, a sharp ended instrument, (e.g. ice pick), about three men, and fish oil. The first thing to do was to pick fresh spring willows, then clean the bark off and split the willow into small strands using the ice pick. As soon as you had enough, one or two of the men started to knit the net. As soon as it was long enough, approximately four feet or longer, it was ready to set. When not in use, the net was kept in fish oil. This prevented the net from cracking and breaking. Fish oil keeps it nice and moist. This type of net was very good for fish. Fish seem to like it.
- Elijah Andrew (COPE, a)
Making a Fish Net with Willow (2)
Fishing is done in creeks or small rivers. Nets and spears are used in catching fish. To make a net, first of all, a large amount of willow bark is gathered. The bark is carefully removed from the willow, then they are cut in thin long strips and placed in hot boiling water. After it has been in the water for some time, it is removed and twisted. The bark is twisted around and around and then brought together with another piece of bark. This then becomes a strong little piece of rope. After producing enough small ropes, the ropes are fastened together and knitted into a net.
- Paul Bonnetplume (COPE)
Willow flats - Gwichya Gwich'in:   k’aii chah
Dry willow - Gwichya Gwich'in:   k’il, Teetł'it Gwich'in:   k’il 
Young shoots - Gwichya Gwich'in:   k’aii dzhuh, Teetł'it Gwich'in:   k’aii dzhuh
Whistles - Gwichya Gwich'in:   k’aii uzhùu, Teetł'it Gwich'in:   k’àii yuuzhuh
Branches - Teetł'it Gwich'in:   k’aii ah
Young willows - Teetł'it Gwich'in:   k'aii loh
Leaves - Gwichya Gwich'in:   k’àii t’àn, Teetł'it Gwich'in:   at’an
Bark - Gwichya Gwich'in:   k’àii neech’yìdh, Teetł'it Gwich'in:   k’aii neech’yuu
Roots - Gwichya Gwich'in:   k’aii ghàii’, Teetł'it Gwich'in:   k’aii chan