The term "kinnikinnick" derives from Unami Delaware/kələkːəˈnikːan/, "mixture" (c.f. Ojibwe giniginige "to mix something animate with something inanimate"), from Proto-Algonquian*kereken-, "mix (it) with something different by hand".
The preparation varies by locality and by Native American tribes. Bartlett quotes Trumbull as saying: "I have smoked half a dozen varieties of kinnikinnick in the North-west—all genuine; and have scraped and prepared the red willow-bark, which is not much worse than Suffieldoak-leaf.
"At this moment the Indians were in deliberation. Seated in a large circle round a very small fire, the smoke from which ascended in a thin straight column, they each in turn puffed a huge cloud of smoke from three or four long cherry-stemmed pipes, which went the round of the party; each warrior touching the ground with the heel of the pipe bowl, and turning the stem upwards and away from him as "medicine" to the Great Spirit, before he himself inhaled the fragrant kinnik-kinnik." — N. Y. Spirit of the Times.
"I at this moment presented to the Duke the Indian pipe, through which he had smoked the day before, and also an Indian tobacco-pouch, filled with the k'nickk'neck (or Indian tobacco) with which he had been so much pleased." — Collin's Travels in Europe.
"There ore also certain creeks where the Indians resort to lay in a store of kinnikinik, the inner bark of the red willow, which they use as a substitute for tobacco, and which has an aromatic and very pungent flavor." — Ruxton, Life in the Far West, p. 116.
"While I am writing, I am smoking a pipe filled with kinnikinick, the dried leaves of the red sumac — a very good substitute for tobacco." — Carvalho, Adventures in the Far West, p. 36.
"The older hunter watched the singular preparations of his silent son, and suspecting that he had discovered signs of an enemy, arose, and saying he would go and cut a few sticks of the red willow [Kinnikinnick] to smoke, he left the lodge to go and see with his own and more experienced eyes, what were the signs of danger." — Warren, History of the Ojibway people
kinnikinic, n. caŋṡaṡa. — Williamson. An English-Dakota Dictionary
"Tobacco used in the early day consisted of the inner bark of red dogwood—Indians on all reservations called it 'red willow.' An informant removed the outside bark of a twig with her thumbnail and noted that the remaining layer of bark when carefully shaven off served as tobacco, so-called kinnikinnick. Today kinnikinnick is a mixture of finely crushed inner bark of the red dogwood and shavings of plug tobacco. The mixture is worked with a mortar with pestle, both mortar and pestle being of wood. This mixture, too, is used today for ceremonial smoking." — Hilger, Chippewa Child Life