In 2000, when the Oglala Lakota tribe passed a tribal initiative clearing the way for legal hemp agriculture on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota, two crops were planted. One was grown by the Slim Buttes Land-Use Association; the other was grown by the family of Alex White Plume on their family land. The hemp never made it to harvest. In August of that same year, heavily armed DEA, FBI and local and tribal police raided both of the hemp fields and hauled the plants away.
The raid hardly deterred the White Plume family. The next year they planted their fields again with hemp. But, again, the crops were raided and seized. They tried once more in 2002 and were raided a third time. At that point, the Feds had enough and slapped Alex White Plume, a former tribal president, with an injunction preventing him from planting seeds again.
On Monday, March 28, a federal judge lifted that injunction. US District Judge Jeffrey Viken of South Dakota said there has been a “shifting legal landscape” since the 2004 order was filed against Alex White Plume. That includes a change in hemp laws in the 2014 farm bill and legalization of marijuana in some states.
In a phone conversation this morning, Alex White Plume was ecstatic: “This has brought me back to life. I’m free like everyone else now – free to put a seed in the ground on my own land.”
White Plume’s lawyer, former US attorney Timothy Purdon, said, “This order brings some justice to Native America’s first modern day hemp farmer,” Purdon said. “For over 10 years, Alex White Plume has been subject to a one-of-a-kind injunction which prevented him from farming hemp.”
Ironically, hemp grows everywhere on the White Plume tiospaye (family land holdings), as well as on nearby tribal land. When the Feds raided the crops and dragged them away, hemp seeds were scattered far and wide.
Alex now looks to a future wherein his people can actually move toward true sovreignty., “This is ours," he says. "Native Lakota hemp. It’s been growing here for over 10 years. I’m looking forward to having it tested to see what medicinal and industrial benefits it may have.”