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Tribes Revive Traditional Hemp Economies

More than 20 years ago, Alex White Plume, a leader of the Oglala Lakota, planted his first hemp crop on Wounded Knee Creek, on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. I call White Plume “the Hemperer.” He’s considered to be one of the grandfathers of the cannabis economy for Native people. Like John Trudell, the great Dakota philosopher and musician, White Plume always said, “Hemp is the way.” 

But in 2000, Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided the reservation and seized White Plume’s crop. In fact, there were several raids on his crop between 2000 and 2002. Two years later, he was ordered to stop growing. In 2016, the federal ban was lifted and in 2017, White Plume partnered with Evo Hemp to make hemp supplements. He’s just beginning again. 

Not surprisingly, White Plume feels a bit resentful of the profits being made in what’s now become a largely White-dominated industry, while his tribe had to sit on the sidelines.