Tobacco had already long been used in the Americas by the time European settlers arrived and introduced the practice to Europe, where it became hugely popular. At high doses, tobacco can become hallucinogeniccitation needed; accordingly, Native Americans did not always use the drug recreationally. Instead, it was often consumed as an entheogen; among some tribes, this was done only by experienced shamans or medicine men.
citation needed Eastern North American tribes would carry large amounts of tobacco in pouches as a readily accepted trade item and would often smoke it in pipes, either in defined ceremonies that were considered sacred, or to seal a bargain7, and they would smoke it at such occasions in all stages of life, even in childhood8. It was believed that tobacco was a gift from the Creator and that the exhaled tobacco smoke was capable of carrying one's thoughts and prayers to heaven9.In addition to being smoked, uncured tobacco was often eaten, used in enemas, or drunk as extracted juice.citation needed Early missionaries often reported on the ecstatic state caused by tobacco.citation needed As its use spread into Western cultures, however, it was no longer used primarily for entheogenic or religious purposes, although religious use of tobacco is still common among many indigenous peoples, particularly in the Americas. Among the Cree and Ojibway of Canada and the north-central United States, it is offered to the Creator, with prayers, and is used in sweat lodges, pipe ceremonies, smudging, and is presented as a gift.
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A gift of tobacco is tradition when asking an Ojibway elder a question of a spiritual nature. Because of its sacred nature, tobacco abuse (thoughtlessly and addictively chain smoking) is seriously frowned upon by the Algonquian tribes of Canada, as it is believed that if one so abuses the plant, it will abuse that person in return, causing sickness10.With the arrival of Europeans, tobacco became one of the primary products fueling the colonization of the future American South, long before the official formation of the United States.
The initial colonial expansion, fueled by the desire to increase tobacco production, was one cause of early conflicts between Native Americans and European settlers, and was a driving factor in the encorporation of African slave labor.In 1609, John Rolfe arrived at the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia, and is credited as the first settler to have successfully raised tobacco (commonly referred to at that time as "brown gold")11 for commercial use. The tobacco raised in Virginia at that time, Nicotiana rustica,citation needed did not suit European tastes, but Rolfe raised a more popular variety, Nicotiana tabacum, from seeds brought with him from Bermuda.citation needed Tobacco was used as currency by the Virginia settlers for years, and Rolfe was able to make his fortune in farming it for export at Varina Farms Plantation.
When he left for England with his wife, Pocahontas a daughter of Chief Powhatan, he had become wealthy. Returning to Jamestown,.