As The Weed Blog recalls, in 2001 then-president of the Oglala Lakota Nation John Yellow Bird Steele wrote a letter to then-US Attorney for South Dakota, Michelle Tapken, asserting the Indian nation’s right to grow industrial hemp under provisions of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. During November 2014 elections, Yellow Bird Steele was again elected tribal president—a good sign for hemp advocates at Pine Ridge. Foremost among these advocates is Alex White Plume (himself a former tribal president), who grew hemp on his Pine Ridge farm until it was raided by the DEA in 2000—two years after the tribe passed an ordinance allowing hemp cultivation. While the court would not impose the 10-year prison sentence sought by prosecutors, White Plume was barred by federal court order from growing hemp for life. But his dream lives on. In October 2014, he traveled to Boulder to be specially honored at Grow Hemp Colorado‘s Industrial Hemp Awards and Festival, as The Cannabist noted.
Native American activist Winona LaDuke (Ojibwe) of the group Honor the Earth has proposed hemp as an alternative to the Keystone pipeline, which would cut through Lakota lands to bring tar-sands oil down from Canada. In a commentary for Indian Country Today Media Network, she wrote: “It’s anticipated that we will spend 20 percent of world GDP on climate related disasters by 2020. We might want to avert that by not pillaging the tar sands (with 240 giga-tons of carbon under some pristine ecosystems). Instead we might want to concentrate on infrastructure for people and future generations. North Dakota, for instance could be the largest exporter of wind and hemp oil in North America…”
Industrial hemp cultivation has been legal in North Dakota for a decade, and the federal farm bill passed in February 2014 clears the way for research plots in the state, as Prairie Business reported at the time. The North Dakota Agriculture Department has a webpage on the state hemp program. Advocates in South Dakota are still pushing for hemp legislation in the state, according to the Vote Hemp website, which tracks such efforts nationwide.