TINDER FUNGUS

FLINT and STEEL

Fire was routinely started with several friction methods including a fire drill and a hand drill. Flint and steel was also used in conjunction with Birch canker or clinker.. Kevin Finney directed several of us on a hunt for shkitagan which is the Indian name for birch canker, a blight that grows on birch trees all over the island. The cinnamon colored corkey inner pulp of the fungus instantly ignites when struck by a spark. It was used by natives to start fires and inhaled to clear the sinuses. The smoke is very aromatic and smells a little like sandalwood. Earlier in the summer I asked a Mohawk medicine man that my parents introduced me to, if he ever heard of shkitagan. He said his tribe knew of it as bearshit. I cannot be sure he was being truthful with me since my meeting with him got off to an awkward start when I got his name wrong. I thought his name was Ten Beers until he corrected me that it was "Ten Bears"! Anyway I am sure Ten Bears would be amused to to think of so many white men running through the woods looking for bearshit. Kevin said that it needed to be quite dry before it would catch a spark and ignite. He suggested leaving a piece on the dash of your car in the sun to dry out. We all had a laugh when we tried to image what a police officer would do if we got pulled over with 12 guys crammed in a Chevy Suburban and he ask us, "What's in the bags?"