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Published June 17, 2009, 06:46 AM

Indian tobacco garden planned in Mont.

Work has begun on a garden to grow the ingredients for traditional tobacco in an effort to reduce the number of American Indian youths who use commercial tobacco.

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Work has begun on a garden to grow the ingredients for traditional tobacco in an effort to reduce the number of American Indian youths who use commercial tobacco.

Ground was broken Monday at the Missoula Indian Center, an organization that offers health care and a chemical dependency program for Indians.

Dana Kingfisher, who works at the center, said the garden will help educate youth about the sacred role of traditional tobacco.

“It’s like a religion to our people,” Kingfisher said.

Traditional plants such as red willow, kinnikinnick, bearberry, sweetgrass and sage will be grown in the garden, along with some vegetables.

Kingfisher said the plants will promote culture as well as prevent commercial tobacco use among Montana’s American Indian youth, 39 percent of whom smoke commercial tobacco, according to the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program.

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