The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, within the southwest nook of South Dakota, is a stark area of dry plains and eroded buttes — the final refuge of the Oglala Lakota, or Oglala Sioux. They as soon as shared the Great Sioux Reservation with the opposite Lakota nations — masking half of present-day South Dakota, together with the mineral-rich timberlands within the Black Hills. Past this expanse, elements of Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana have been designated “unceded” looking grounds. These have been the phrases of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, the fruit of Chief Red Cloud’s Powder River War.

The treaty was, in fact, broken — first, after the 1874 Custer Expedition found gold within the Black Hills, and Congress voted to unilaterally confiscate them, together with the “unceded” territory. The Lakota and their allies launched the Nice Sioux Conflict in response to abrogation of the treaty, dealing Gen. George A. Custer a humiliating demise and defeat on the Battle of the Little Bighorn — though ultimately, they needed to settle for the diminished reservation. By way of additional reductions of the Lakota homeland, Pine Ridge would stay an emblem of resistance.

In 1890, it was the scene of the Wounded Knee massacre, when the US cavalry killed some 300 to place down the Ghost Dance revivalist motion. And in 1973, it was the scene of a second Wounded Knee incident, when the American Indian Motion (AIM) seized a buying and selling submit on the village to press their calls for for Congressional hearings on damaged treaties. Two AIM militants have been killed in shoot-outs with the FBI. A 1975 shoot-out at an AIM camp on Pine Ridge left one Indian and two FBI brokers lifeless — and led to the infamous case of Leonard Peltier, the AIM militant still in prison for the murders of the FBI males, regardless of revelations of withheld evidence and demands for his release by Amnesty International.

Hemp Warrior

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Alex White Plume, credit score: Malcolm MacKinnon

Pine Ridge is the house of Alex White Plume, who has prevailed over lengthy federal makes an attempt – together with three DEA raids on his farm – to close down his hemp-stead on the reservation.

White Plume now has two acres of hemp below cultivation. “I’m making an attempt to purchase an extracting machine, to extract CBD myself,” he tells Mission CBD. “Extract it and promote it proper right here myself, on the reservation.” He believes it could possibly be efficient for widespread illnesses on the rez, from arthritis to veterans affected by PTSD.

“I even have potential consumers in Europe,” he says. “I get calls daily from folks eager to know once I’ll have it on the market.”

However he expresses a wariness of the worldwide market, as he stays rooted in his conventional Lakota values. “I’m fluent in my language, so it’s tough for me to enterprise into the capitalist world, and there’s a line I received’t cross,” he says. “Now we have to reclaim our sovereignty primarily based on kinship. I attempt to embody my household in every part I do. I step into the capitalist world, and step again out. I’m looking for a center floor.”

White Plume, a former Oglala Sioux tribal councilman who additionally briefly served as tribal president in 2006, grew up on his Pine Ridge farm. Even earlier than planting hemp, he was a part of an effort by the Oglala Lakota to reunite their fragmented patrimony in “land-use associations,” which correspond to tiospayes — the prolonged households which are the oldest type of Lakota authorities, however had been largely damaged up by BIA coverage. His 210-acre farm is a part of the White Plume tiospaye, a registered landowners’ affiliation of 4,000 acres.

He views hemp as a part of a regeneration of self-sufficiency and sustainable tradition on a reservation that suffers from a number of the worst poverty in the USA.

Land-use Associations

Land-use associations on the Pine Ridge reservation are experimenting with utilizing “hempcrete” — a mixture of hemp hurds and hydrated lime — to construct “hemp homes” or “earthships.” The latter is a brand new type of heat-efficient dwelling designed by Earthship Biotecture of Taos, NM. Largely underground, it’s protected by a domed shell consisting of earth, recycled supplies akin to tires and beer cans, and fiber-based bricks.

The Oglala Lakota Cultural & Financial Revitalization Initiative (OLCERI) is constructing a similar earthship-style building as a neighborhood middle in cooperation with Tiyospaye Winyan Maka and different reservation land associations. This one is designed by Engineers Without Borders of Fort Collins, Colortado. The muse was almost full when work was slowed by the pandemic.

OLCERI has constructed a number of “sustainable properties” on Pine Ridge utilizing such fiber-based supplies as cob — a mixture of sand, clay, and straw. Additionally into account is hempcrete, though authorized ambiguities have meant some hesitancy.

Along with hemp, the WaCinHinSka (White Plume) tiospaye is rising watermelon, onions, potatoes and jalapeños, and elevating horses and buffalo. Alex is particularly pleased with his buffalo, which the White Plume tiospaye lives off. “One buck will get the household via a yr,” he says. “These are the purest buffalo left. They’ve by no means been cross-bred with cattle.”

But it surely was his hemp cultivation that led to one more Lakota confrontation with federal energy.

DEA Raids Pine Ridge

Hemp, as soon as a widespread crop on Pine Ridge, was planted once more on April 29, 2000 — the 132nd anniversary of the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty. White Plume introduced the planting on the reservation’s KILI Radio. He publicly invited the US Legal professional in Speedy Metropolis, SD, and the native BIA supervisor to attend and witness. Each declined to indicate up when the 1.5-acre discipline was seeded.

White Plume had authority to develop hemp from the Pine Ridge authorities, designated the Oglala Sioux Tribe or OST. In July 1998, the tribal council had handed an ordinance distinguishing hemp from marijuana and permitting cultivation of the previous — a full 20 years earlier than the Farm Invoice did the identical factor for the USA. The tribal ordinance instated a 1% THC restrict. It required growers to type land-use associations and register with the OST Land Committee, which was to “interface” with “any regulation enforcement.” The OST’s then-President John Yellow Chook Steele publicly endorsed the White Plume planting.

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However on August 24, 2000, simply earlier than harvest time, some 30 DEA and FBI males and US Marshals invaded the White Plume homestead. Alex woke to sounds of helicopters earlier than daybreak, seemed out the window and noticed the convoy of automobiles heading for the hemp discipline. He jumped in his truck. Arriving on the discipline, he was ordered to freeze and had an M-16 caught in his face. Kids, nieces, and nephews who had gathered on the discipline, watched, some in tears.

The DEA knew what they chopped down and hauled away was rope, not dope. The DEA’s warrant request truly cited a pattern plant that Alex gave a BIA investigator who had warned him his discipline was unlawful. The pattern was forwarded to the federally-contracted Marijuana Research Facility on the College of Mississippi. “That evaluation revealed that the vegetation contained no detectable amount of THC,” based on the warrant request.

Brokers claimed to have uprooted 3,782 vegetation. Below federal regulation on the time, possessing over 1,000 vegetation is punishable by 10 years to life, no matter THC content material.

A one-sixteenth-acre check plot on tribal land leased by the Slim Butte land-use affiliation was raided the identical morning. Oglala Sioux tribal authorities weren’t even notified of the raids.

Whereas the conservative Speedy Metropolis Journal headline learn “Marijuana crops raided,” Alex’s brother Percy White Plume instructed the Lakota Nation Journal: “This is similar type of therapy we’ve been getting for the final 150 years. Standing right here watching them minimize down and take away our crop, I had a small feeling of how our ancestors felt after they have been instructed to not go off the reservation, that they couldn’t hunt buffalo …”

Protest in Speedy Metropolis

The White Plume tiospaye was joined by actor Woody Harrelson and 100 supporters at a September 2000 protest outdoors the Speedy Metropolis federal constructing.

Each the land-use affiliation and the California-based Tierra Madre firm, which had contracted to purchase a lot of the harvest, filed go well with to have the hemp returned. However District Choose Richard Battey in Speedy Metropolis denied an injunction to halt destruction of the vegetation after the prosecution argued that “any injunction … can not undo the very fact the vegetation are already rotted.”

In 2001, OST President John Yellow Chook Steele wrote a letter to then-US Legal professional for South Dakota Michelle Tapken, asserting the Lakota nation’s proper to develop hemp below provisions of the Fort Laramie Treaty. Whereas the treaty acknowledged “unceded lands” for buffalo looking, it additionally included provisions to encourage agriculture on the reservation as conducive to settled life.

White Plume’s household planted one other crop in 2001 — solely to look at the feds minimize and seize it once more in a raid of the farmstead that Could.

The household planted but a 3rd crop the subsequent yr. In July 2002, DEA brokers seized samples — this time sending them off to the College of Mississippi lab, which confirmed that they have been “marijuana” (regardless of low THC content material). It was clear the feds have been going to do extra than simply seize the crop this time.

Push had come to shove, and negotiations ensued. White Plume agreed not to withstand this third confiscation of his crop in alternate for a pledge that no felony fees could be filed towards him. And when the farm was once more raided and the crop seized the next month, White Plume was as a substitute served civil fees. Prosecutors sought a federal injunction particularly barring him from rising hemp.

Regardless of the DEA’s preliminary declare, the case (as soon as once more) didn’t activate THC content material. The White Plume household denied that the crop was “marijuana.” They asserted that they have been “cultivating industrial hemp completely for industrial or horticultural functions” and have been “exempt from the applying of the Managed Substances Act.” However in December 2004, the Speedy Metropolis district court docket dominated that “hemp is quite a lot of Hashish sativa L.” and the chemical distinction between hemp and marijuana was not related. White Plume was barred by federal court docket order from rising hemp for all times.

White Plume Prevails

However his dream lived on. In October 2014, Alex travelled to Boulder, the place he was specifically honored by GrowHempColorado on the Industrial Hemp Awards & Festival.

That yr’s Farm Invoice, with its restricted provision for experimental hemp cultivation, would show a turning level for White Plume’s efforts. In March 2016, District Choose Jeffrey Viken in Speedy Metropolis lifted the injunction on White Plume, citing the “shifting authorized panorama,” which made continued enforcement “detrimental to the general public curiosity.”

“This order brings some justice to Native America’s first modern-day hemp farmer,” stated his legal professional Timothy Purdon. “For over 10 years, Alex White Plume has been topic to a one-of-a-kind injunction which prevented him from farming hemp.”

However the order didn’t explicitly deal with the query of whether or not cultivation of hemp on the reservation must be acknowledged as authorized. Alex White Plume, in fact, asserts that it’s. “I had rights below our sovereign powers,” he says. “We’re a treaty tribe, we retained territory below treaty with the USA. If state police come on the reservation, they are often arrested for trespassing.”

White Plume defiantly resumed hemp cultivation in 2017, with no additional interference from the feds. And in March 2020, the USDA approved the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s hemp manufacturing plan — which implies that, lastly, White Plume is unambiguously within the authorized clear. 5 different Lakota growers additionally planted hemp on Pine Ridge this yr.

South Dakota, in the meantime, has been sluggish to get on the hemp bandwagon. In March 2019, the state’s Republican Gov. Kristi Noem vetoed a bill that might have allowed hemp cultivation within the state. A yr later, she lastly capitulated and signed such a bill, following a protracted battle with legislators.

After all, technically state regulation made no distinction on Pine Ridge. However White Plume says the state’s foot-dragging impacted him anyway. “I had a tough time to promote my hemp as a result of the state didn’t legalize it,” he says. “I misplaced a variety of alternatives to promote, as a result of folks didn’t imagine me that I used to be rising legally.”

When Mission CBD spoke with him in October 2020, White Plume was making ready to reap — ready on a certificates from a DEA-approved lab in Colorado that his crop is inside the THC restrict.

“My 9 youngsters and 37 grandchildren all pitch in for the harvest,” he says. “I like ‘em all. They’re all sensible, stunning Lakota folks.”

Sioux Nations Look to Hemp

The Oglala Lakota are the westernmost of the Sioux nations, which prolong as far east as Minnesota. Recognized in their very own tongue because the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires, they make up a unfastened confederation of tribal governments — a number of of which wish to hemp for financial renewal. The Sicangu Lakota, or Rosebud Sioux Tribe, whose reservation borders Pine Ridge on the east, even have a hemp cultivation plan permitted by the USDA.

The Hunkpapa Lakota, or Standing Rock Sioux, are throughout the state line in North Dakota. After North Dakota legalized hemp cultivation in 2015, they instantly expressed an interest in growing, and now this tribe has a plan permitted by the USDA. They gained fame 4 years in the past with their protest marketing campaign towards the deliberate Dakota Entry Pipeline, which drew help from Native peoples and their ecologist allies throughout the USA.

After protesters camped for weeks on the frigid North Dakota plains and confronted off with militarized state police forces within the autumn of 2018, President Obama’s administration blocked completion of the pipeline. However President Trump immediately revived development of the pipeline, and the Standing Rock Sioux are nonetheless fighting the project within the courts.

On the jap finish of South Dakota, the Isanti Dakota or Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe truly brought a lawsuit towards the USDA in June 2019 over the Division’s failure to challenge laws permitting Indian nations to develop hemp. District Choose Karen Schreier in Sioux Falls denied the tribe’s request for a preliminary injunction that might have allowed cultivation to begin. The case was dropped when the laws have been lastly promulgated, and the tribe’s hemp plan won approval that December.

Stated the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in a statement announcing approval of its plan: “The tribe is assured that this plant just isn’t solely an unbelievable financial alternative due to its huge product choices” however is “additionally useful to the surroundings.”

Plans for THC-rich Hashish

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Hemp at Pine Ridge, credit score: Malcolm MacKinnon

After the states of Washington and Colorado voted to legalize grownup use of THC-rich hashish (“marijuana”) in 2012, some Sioux nations thought of it their proper to do likewise. However in 2014 the Oglala Sioux tribal council voted down a proposal to permit marijuana cultivation on Pine Ridge. The council’s Regulation & Order Committee chairwoman Ellen Fills the Pipe stated earlier than the vote: “For me, it’s a drug. My intestine feeling is we’re almost definitely going to shoot it down.”

The San Francisco Chronicle’s cannabis-friendly Smell the Truth weblog couldn’t chorus from noting the irony of the chairwoman’s title, but additionally acknowledged fears, life like or not, that reservation weed gross sales may exacerbate already current alcohol and substance abuse issues.

In June 2015, the Flandreau Santee Sioux voted to legalize cultivation and use of marijuana on their tribal lands. Later that yr, tribal leaders introduced plans for the addition of a cannabis-themed resort to the reservation’s successful casino. Marijuana grown on the reservation was to be obtainable in a brand new nightclub and “smoking lounge.” Plans for “social consumption” of hashish have been being pioneered by the Santee Sioux earlier than numerous states and municipalities across the nation began pursuing the concept. “We would like it to be an grownup playground,” tribal President Anthony Reider told the Associated Press on the time.

However that November, the Tribal Council voted to quickly droop their marijuana operation. Instantly following the vote, the tribe’s first THC-rich hashish crop was burned in the fields – a call taken after South Dakota officers warned that legalization on the reservation would solely be seen as making use of to tribal members. Thus non-tribal members utilizing hashish on the reservation could possibly be prosecuted below state regulation. Slightly than threat a confrontation with state authorities, the tribe agreed to droop the venture.

A Tactical Retreat

The transfer was explicitly seen as a tactical retreat. Tribal legal professional Seth C. Pearman stated in a press release: “After government-to-government session with the USA, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is quickly suspending its marijuana cultivation and distribution services. This suspension is pivotal to the continued success of the marijuana enterprise … The Tribe will proceed to seek the advice of with the federal and state governments and hopes to be granted parity with states which have legalized marijuana. The Tribe intends to efficiently take part within the marijuana trade, and Tribal management is undaunted by this temporary sidestep.”

As a substitute, their ambitions have been parlayed into hemp cultivation after the 2018 Farm Invoice — solely to be met with almost a yr of stonewalling by the USDA.

The Santee Sioux are actually owed some long-delayed justice from Uncle Sam, given their all too acquainted historical past of violent expropriation of conventional lands, adopted by compelled relocation. They briefly made information in December 2012, when tribal members made a horseback pilgrimage to Mankato, Minn. The cross-country trip was made to commemorate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the 1862 mass public hanging there of 38 Dakota Sioux males, for crimes allegedly dedicated in that yr’s US-Dakota War — the biggest mass execution in US historical past. The execution order was personally signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

After the Civil Conflict, the Dakota have been pushed west from their Minnesota homeland and have become referred to as the Santee Sioux. They settled at Flandreau and a second Santee Sioux reservation in Nebraska. The Nebraska department of the Santee, the Santee Sioux Nation, additionally now has a hemp plan with USDA approval.

And in March 2020, Oglala tribal members permitted an initiative to alter the hashish legal guidelines on the Pine Ridge reservation. In late October, the tribal council followed through on the will of the voters. Hashish cultivation and possession, each for medical and normal grownup use, are actually authorized at Pine Ridge.

The tribal council vote got here only a week earlier than the nationwide elections by which South Dakota was among six states to approve initiatives loosening hashish legal guidelines. In two separate South Dakota poll measures, each medical marijuana and adult-use hashish have been legalized.

PART ONE: Reviving Hemp in Menominee Country

PART TWO: Growing a Cannabis Economy on White Earth

PART FOUR (coming quickly): Showdown at Navajo Nation

PART FIVE (coming quickly): Closing the Circle


Invoice Weinberg, a Mission CBD contributing author, is a 30-year veteran journalist within the fields of drug coverage, ecology and indigenous peoples. He’s a former information editor at Excessive Instances journal, and he produces the web sites CounterVortex.org and Global Ganja Report.


Copyright, Mission CBD. Will not be reprinted with out permission.