"I said, 'What do you think you're doing?' and an FBI guy raised a machine gun and pointed it directly at me," Alex White Plume said."
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation - August 24, 2000

December 14, 2005 - Update - Court Hears Hemp Appeal - From the Rapid City Journal ST. LOUIS Members of a family say they were growing hemp, not marijuana, on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and asked federal appeals judges Monday to return the matter to a lower court to consider the legality of their crop.
The White Plume family tried three times to grow an industrial hemp crop on Oglala Sioux reservation land from 2000 to 2002, only to have the plants seized and destroyed by the federal government. The family was later ordered by a judge to halt the plantings permanently.

August 12, 2002 - Update - US Attorney throws White Plume a softball - From Global Hemp News: "...Saturday, August 10, 2002 federal agents served a Summons and Complaint on White Plume at his home near Manderson SD. Strangely, the feds decided to use a civil route this year, rather than the brutal and frightening tactics they usually seem to prefer. There are a number of ramifications to the civil court approach, many of which are probably not apparent yet..."
The Summons and Complaint are posted at http://www.sodakhemp.org/summons.htm

August 2, 2002 - Update - Manderson area family harvests hemp crop - From The Rapid City Journal: MANDERSON -- The third time was a charm for Alex White Plume and his family as they quietly harvested their first crop of industrial hemp this week. "It really felt good," White Plume said Friday. "Just like a sense of relief." This was the third straight year the White Plume family planted hemp on their land near Manderson. Two years in a row, federal agents confiscated the plants before they could be harvested, although the U.S. government did not file any charges against any of the White Plumes, who planned to produce and sell hemp oil and other products from the plants. This time, family members beat government agents to the punch. They harvested most of the 3.5-acre crop Monday night.

April 15, 2002 - Update - Oglalas plant hemp on rez for third time - From Indian Country Today: MANDERSON, S.D. -- "The White Plume clan planted its third crop of industrial hemp April 5, this time with television cameras joining print media. For the third year in a row, the family posed a challenge to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which destroyed its previous two plantings. The Oglala Sioux Tribe passed a hemp legalization ordinance in 1998 to encourage agricultural economic development on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The White Plume family planted its first hemp crop in 2000 hoping to establish a business that also would help the environment. The DEA destroyed the crops on Oglala land the last two summers as part of its "war on drugs.""Text version here

April 7, 2002 - Update - Indian's 'field of dreams' runs afoul of drug laws - From The Denver Post: MANDERSON, S.D "...After the first crop was confiscated, White Plume said, he sold some of his 70 horses to cover the financial loss. Last summer, after the DEA chopped down his second planting, he sold more horses, some traditional dance clothing and a pickup. If they come back this year, he said, he's going to stand and fight. Not with guns - although the federal agents who traveled here packed heat along with their weed whackers. But with a lawsuit..."

November 21, 2001 - Update - Pine Ridge tribal council passes hemp ordinance - From The Rapid City Journal: PINE RIDGE -- The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council voted 10-2 on Tuesday to approve a resolution supporting the development of industrial hemp on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation."

August 7, 2001 - Update - White Plumes relinquish hemp crop - From Indian Country Today: MANDERSON, S.D. "For four hours under the sun of a hot and humid July morning Alex and Percy White Plume, their sisters Ramona and Alta, and a dozen of their children watched agents from the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency toil with weed-whackers and machetes, cutting down the family's second hemp crop on the Pine Ridge Reservation."

July 31, 2001 - Update - Hemp grower defiant after crop taken - From The Rapid City Journal: MANDERSON: "...Agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation seized hundreds of hemp plants Monday from White Plume's land near Manderson, hauling them away in 11 vehicles and a U-haul trailer." Text version here

July 18, 2001 - Update - Letter from John Yellow Bird Steele, President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, to the U.S. Attorney for South Dakota. Steele: "I respectfully request that you direct the law enforcement agencies under your authority to refrain from further contact with our tribal members regarding the cultivation of industrial hemp, or encroachment upon our reservation for the purpose of enforcing your Controlled Substances Act. That Act does not apply to our reservation or our People." Text version here

May 30, 2001 - Update - Hemp planted again on Pine Ridge - From Indian Country Today: MANDERSON, S.D. - "Last month, shortly before Earth Day, more than two dozen members of the White Plume tiospaye or extended family, toddlers to adults, gathered on a high plateau on family land for a planting. Industrial hemp was returning to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation."Text version here

February 20, 2001 - A Dance of Deception - By Don Trent Jacobs. From MotherJones.com: A leading Native American scholar and educator says the federal raid on Alex White Plume's hemp crop is yet another manifestation of the US government's two-faced policy toward Indians. Text version here

The chronicle that follows describes, in the words of press releases and news articles, what happened when Alex White Plume, a Lakota, planted a field of industrial hemp in the spring of 2000. The land where the hemp was planted is on the Pine Ridge Reservation, land "... set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians..." by this exact wording of the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868. White Plume followed the law regarding the planting of hemp. The law was enacted by the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council in July of 1998. And this is what happened to the field (map) of hemp...

April 14, 2000

Joe American Horse announced on KILI Radio that to be sovereign the tribe must act sovereign, so accordingly, he will plant industrial hemp seeds on April 29, 2000 to advance the authority of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in the matter of jurisdiction over tribal lands.

Stating the USA does not make treaties with ethnic minorities but only with other sovereigns, American Horse said he is prepared to exercise the self-determination inherent in the Oglala Sioux Tribe as a successor government under the Treaty of 1868.

April 29, 2000

The 132nd anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of 1868, members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe will plant industrial hemp at various locations on the Reservation. In July 1998, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council passed an ordinance defining industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana (which is a controlled substance under tribal law). The ordinance provides for the cultivation and harvesting of industrial hemp on the Reservation.

The Slim Butte Land Use Association, which spearheaded the effort to initiate industrial hemp production on the Reservation, looks forward to the sustainable aspects of the crop. "It is very important to us that we be able to grow a crop that allows us to live in balance with Mother Earth," says Loretta Afraid-of-Bear Cook, Chair of the Slim Butte LUA, "Hemp does not require any chemicals and it allows us to start taking care of our people ourselves." The landowner association is in the latter stages of building a house with materials primarily of industrial hemp. While lack of adequate housing is a problem on most reservations, it is particularly challenging on Pine Ridge where tornadoes and heavy winds frequently destroy homes. President Bill Clinton acknowledged the severity of the housing shortage during his visit to Pine Ridge last summer, saying "There is no more crucial building block for a strong community and a promising future than a solid home."

"Industrial hemp is the key component to sustainable housing," said Tom Cook, LUA Project Director for the house building project. "We make hemp-based concrete that is lighter, stronger and easier to work with than masonry concrete," he said, "Not only that, but we are putting people to work here on the reservation with good jobs." The house building project has employed eight people, and the Slim Butte LUA intends to market its "Hempcrete" blocks to the building industry. In addition, the LUA seeks to set up a handmade paper making operation that will use parts of the hemp that do not go into the block making.(1)

May 2000

MANDERSON, S.D. - On a sunny early May day described as "perfect for planting," Alex White Plume, with 20 friends and relatives, planted an acre and a half field along the banks of Wounded Knee Creek. Helping Alex get the crop in was his grandson, Tyson, 5.

The crop is industrial hemp and planting it could land Tyson's grandpa in jail.

White Plume formally invited the man who would be charged with putting him in jail to the planting. After his invitation to U.S. Attorney Ted McBride, White Plume invited BIA Superintendent Bob Ecoffey, too. "I have nothing to hide," the Lakota man said. "I'm just looking for a good way to support my family."

Neither McBride or Ecoffey made it to the planting.

Laws that govern his tribe give,White Plume every right to grow the stuff. Oglala Sioux Tribal (OST) Ordinance 98-27, passed by the Tribal Council in July of 1998, reads, in part: THEREFORE BE IT ORDAINED that the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council does hereby expressly reserve and retain jurisdiction to enact legislation relating to industrial hemp agriculture..."

White Plume says the ordinance is clear.

A key provision of 98-27 makes a chemical and testable distinction between industrial hemp and the marijuana used for getting high. While the tribe's penal code ordains fines and jail time for use of marijuana as a narcotic, it excludes industrial hemp.

Its definition: "Industrial Hemp" - All parts and varieties of the plant Cannabis sativa, both indigenous and imported, that are, or have historically been, cultivated and harvested for fiber and seed purposes and contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of one percent or less by weight." (2)

July 2000

On a hill near Manderson, S.D., the wind blows gently through the hills.

A herd of horses stands on a bluff surveying their terrain, and Alex White Plume smiles as he looks out on his hemp field. Alex is a man of his word, inspired and driven, by dreams.

So it is, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the home of the Oglala Lakota people and to some of the most daunting statistics of poverty in the country, including that dubious honor of being the single poorest county in the country, that a field of hemp grows under the South Dakota sun.(3)

August 24, 2000

MANDERSON, S.D. - Twenty-five federal agents in 11 sport utility vehicles descended at dawn on a 1 1/2-acre field of industrial hemp just four miles north of Manderson.

Agents in bulletproof vests surrounded the field, as two small-engine planes and one helicopter flew reconnaissance overhead.

When Lakota landowners, Percy and Alex White Plume, part owners of the field, went directly to the site, they were met with lethal resistance.

"I said, 'What do you think you're doing?' and an FBI guy raised a machine gun and pointed it directly at me," Alex White Plume said.

The agents arrived at 6 and by 8:30 a.m. they had confiscated virtually all the hemp plants. "They used these strange kind of weed eaters with metal teeth like a saw," White Plume said.

The federal agents left a field of 6-inch stubble as the legacy of their Aug. 24 visit.(4)

What is industrial hemp?
What are some of the uses of industrial hemp?
Why is growing hemp illegal in the U.S.?
How is this a sovereignty issue?

What is Industrial hemp?

To clear things up from the beginning, industrial hemp is not the same plant as is marijuana. They are different and distinct varieties within the same subspecies. Most significantly, they differ in the amount of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) that is found in them. Most experts recognized industrial hemp as those varieties containing less than 1% THC.

There are other ways that the two varieties of Cannabis differ, one being the length of time needed to harvest. Hemp can be harvested in 90 days and marijuana needs in excess of 150 days to mature.

From the KHGCA (Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association): "Industrial hemp, when planted for fiber production, is a tall slender plant without branches because it is planted 4 inches apart. Thin-stemmed, tall industrial hemp does not resemble the full, branchy marijuana plant. Industrial hemp is an agricultural crop, whereas marijuana is a horticultural crop, and the visual differences are distinct and obvious to even the untrained eye.(5)

What are some of the uses of industrial hemp?

Listed here are just some of the literally thousands of uses for industrial hemp. Important to note here, also, is the fact that hemp is grown completely without the need of pesticides. This means that the problem of run-off of toxic chemicals is eliminated in the fields where hemp is grown.

Hemp can yield 3-8 tons of fibre per acre. This is four times what an average forest can yield.(6)

Some of the uses:
  • Fiber for textiles and clothing.
  • Paper - paper made from hemp is of higher quality than that made from wood pulp. Hemp paper requires less bleaching and is more resistant to decomposition, which makes it more desirable for archival uses. (The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights were written on paper made from hemp.)
  • Cosmetics - hair and skin products.
  • Animal bedding - high quality and in demand in other countries.
  • Hemp and lime mixtures make a high quality plaster.
  • Non-petroleum based plastics
  • Hemp is a good insulator and can be used with other products to make building materials.( This is one of the intended uses for which the Pine Ridge hemp was grown.)

Why is growing hemp illegal in the U.S.?

Industrial hemp has been grown in this country for centuries. It was grown by Thomas Jefferson on his farm in Virginia. It was grown by the United States government for use during WW II. The US government formed War Hemp Industries and subsidized hemp cultivation. US farmers grew about a million acres of hemp across the midwest as part of that program.

The growing of hemp was essentially "criminalized" by the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, by which hemp farmers were burdened with a tax that was meant to squelch the narcotic "marihuana" production. The Director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, (the precursor to the DEA) Henry J. Anslinger, led farmers to believe their cash crop would not be threatened by the criminalization of its cousin.

This, of course, was not to be the case. It is significant to note that Anslinger was the nephew of Secretary of Treasury, Andrew Mellon. Andrew Mellon was also a banker for chemical companies such as DuPont. DuPont is a company who was and is a major producer of synthetic fiber and who owned the patents on synthetic plastics. DuPont, as well as many other large companies had made large investments in making paper from wood pulp. There are many who feel that the 1937 Act was enacted to protect the financial interests of those companies who would have been directly affected by the production of industrial hemp products. This act essentially and for all intents and purposes eliminated the "competition."

It is interesting to note, that while the DEA doggedly destroys hemp, President Clinton indicates its significance. The Executive Order 12919 Of June 3, 1994 National Defense Industrial Resources Preparedness mentions hemp in this context:

(e) "Food resources" means all commodities and products, simple, mixed, or compound, or complements to such commodities or products, that are capable of being ingested by either human beings or animals, irrespective of other uses to which such commodities or products may be put, at all stages of processing from the raw commodity to the products thereof in vendible form for human or animal consumption. "Food resources" also means all starches, sugars, vegetable and animal or marine fats and oils, cotton, tobacco, wool, mohair, hemp, flax fiber, and naval stores, but does not mean any such material after it loses its identity as an agricultural commodity or agricultural product.

Hemp, therefore, is "defined" as "food resource" in the context of National Defense Preparedness. It is difficult to understand how something could be necessary and illegal at the same time. Just another instance of the left hand of the U.S. government not knowing what its right hand is doing?(7)

How is this a sovereignty issue?

A treaty is a formal agreement between sovereign bodies. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 was an agreement between two sovereign nations, the United States and the Lakota Nation.

Article II describes the boundaries of the Treaty lands, and goes on to say:

"... set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians herein named, and for such other friendly tribes or individual Indians as from time to time they may be willing, with the consent of the United States, to admit amongst them;"

The United States wanted peace. Article I states: "From this day forward all war between the parties to this agreement shall for ever cease." It is clear from the wording of the treaty that the United States intended that the Lakota Nation cease "roaming and hunting" and in Article III says "..to comence cultivating the soil as farmers."

The Treaty, in Article X, goes on to encourage the Lakota to farm by giving financial incentive:

"...And in addition to the clothing herein named, the sum of $10 for each person entitled to the beneficial effects of this treaty shall be annually appropriated for a period of 30 years, while such persons roam and hunt, and $20 for each person who engages in farming,.."

To further clarify the U.S. position, article XV states that the Lakota will "... they will regard said reservation their permanent home, and they will make no permanent settlement elsewhere;..."

In planting the hemp crop, the Lakota believe that they have acted in good faith. "Under the 1868 Treaty, any rights reserved by the tribe can be claimed by a tribal member. By planting this field, I claim my treaty right as an Oglala Sioux," said White Plume.(2)

The OST Ordinance 98-27 requires members to form Land Use Organizations (LUA), and to apply for recognition through the tribe's Land Committee. White Plume's LUA is Kiza Tiyospaye located in the Wounded Knee District.

Tiyospaye lawyer, Thomas Ballanco, believes the Lakota in growing industrial hemp are exercising their right to do so under the 1868 Treaty:

"It is my professional opinion that (tribal) members who comply with OST Ordinance 98-27 do not have to comply with U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regulations regarding cultivation of marijuana in 21 CFR. 1300 et seq."

He cites several reasons for his conviction. "The right to cultivate industrial hemp on the reservation was retained by the various treaties between the United States and the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) nation, specifically the Treaty of 1868." The lawyer then refers to nine precedent-setting cases he says solidify the tribe's right to control the production of industrial hemp within its external boundaries.

Part of Ballanco's argument is the fact that wild-growing hemp plants are present in abundance on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. "The plants are here because at the time of the treaty, it was the only available product for making cloth and other items."(2)

November 24, 2000

Lexington, Kentucky
Lakota Indians defying DEA; Accept KY Co-op's Offer to Replace Destroyed Hemp Crop
Contact:KHGCA Executive Director Joe Hickey; (859) 277-5115

"The Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative is offering to replace some of the hemp lost to the nightmare of the drug war," said Alex White Plume, whose 1-acre hemp crop on Wounded Knee creek was seized and destroyed. White Plume now believes the DEA's actions are helping, not derailing his long-range plans. He said the positive feedback is showing that, "Lakota hemp is gaining respect in the world."

In a letter to White Plume, the Kentucky Hemp Growers Co-op's executive director, Joe Hickey, characterized America's hemp policy as "fundamentally absurd and destructive... In light of international treaties protecting its cultivation worldwide, the policy is ludicrous and irresponsible." In the face of Kentucky's Supreme Court ruling that 'hemp is marijuana,' Hickey has offered to help make up the loss by transporting and delivering legally imported Canadian hemp bales from Kentucky, across state lines, to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Former Gov. Louie B. Nunn will present Joe American Horse with the Kentucky/Canadian hemp in a ceremony on November 28, 2000 highlighting the need for some common sense regulations of industrial hemp in the United States. Gov. Nunn said, "I intend on traveling with the Indian delegation back to the Pine Ridge Reservation in an effort to help educate the public along the way about the potential benefits of this historical crop and to demonstrate that we all need to work together to help develop an agricultural and economic future that will better serve all people.

December 13, 2000

Kentucky's hemp for Pine Ridge home was displayed at Mount Rushmore Memorial.

MOUNT RUSHMORE, S.D. - Standing beneath the sculpted faces of four presidents, former Republican Gov. Louie B. Nunn of Kentucky turned over a pickup and trailer load of industrial hemp to Milo Yellowhair of Pine Ridge.

Kentucky hemp growers supported the Pine Ridge Land Use Project members after their industrial hemp crop was destroyed and confiscated by federal officers of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The choice of Mount Rushmore as a transfer location was prompted by the fact that two of the presidents, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, grew industrial hemp.

The 20 bales and 55 large bags of industrial hemp donated by the Kentucky Hemp Growers Association was imported from Canada in accordance with the North American Free Trade Agreement, Nunn said.

In conclusion, I feel that it is important to keep in mind that there is a need for industrial hemp products in this country, as evidenced by the importation of such. The demand for hemp fibre is estimated to be about 100,000 tons per year. If Canada and many countries in Western Europe have managed to grow and export industrial hemp products, why is it impossible for it do be done in the United States?

Additionally, if the Lakota are a sovereign Nation of People, how is it that the DEA can destroy their crops? Is this not comparable to the DEA going into the sovereign Nation of Canada and destroying their hemp crop?

The growing of industrial hemp brings two very important issues to the surface, those being the sovereignty of the Lakota Nation and the question of why the DEA is protecting the financial health of other industries by criminalizing the growing of industrial hemp.

Perhaps these questions should be asked of our government?


1. The Boston Hemp CO-OP'S Digital Library and Museum
2. Indian Country Today, May 24, 2000
3. Indian Country Today, July 26, 2000
4. Indian Country Today, September 6, 2000
5. Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association[NOTE: this link may not be functioning, please see information section below]
6. North American Industrial Hemp Council
7. Executive Order 12919 Of June 3, 1994 National Defense Industrial Resources Preparedness

Additional information:

January 26, 2006 - Assembly OKs bill letting farmers grow hemp.
Sacramento - A bill approved by the state Assembly Thursday would add California to the growing number of states seeking to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp - a biological relative of marijuana.Text of Mercury News article here

VOTE HEMP - is a non-profit organization dedicated to the full deregulation of and a free market for Industrial Hemp. Currently, hemp is illegal because it is improperly classified as a "drug" under the Controlled Substances Act. Since changes in legislation require shifts in thinking and this requires education in the facts, our primary goal is the education of legislators and regulators, farmers and businesses, students and other concerned citizens.

The classic USDA film clip, "Hemp for Victory" describing the government promotion and support of the growing of industrial hemp for the war effort. A transcript of the film can be read here on the Global Hemp site.

North American Industrial Hemp Council

Kentucky hemp Growers Cooperative Association [NOTE: as of 16 July 2001, this link has been removed as it appears to be no longer functioning.] Please see additional information at link below.

For immediate release: Thursday, March 22, 2001
Kentucky Hemp Bill Signed Into Law - The Kentucky state legislature passed a bill establishing an Industrial Hemp Commission (IHC) and today the bill (HB 100) was signed into law by Gov. Patton. Text version of news article available here.

Global Hemp - Portal to the global hemp community. This site is comprehensive in its coverage of the subject of industrial hemp. The resources listed include current news articles as well as legislative efforts listed by state.

The home page of a Canadian hemp farm located in Ontario.

The Boston Hemp CO-OP'S Digital Library and Museum

The Hemp Industries Association

Note: This material (in part) originally published by IMdiversity. com - Native American Village.

[Page last updated December 21, 2007]

This material written and copyrighted by Sonja Keohane.

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