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POLL: Native Americans Growing Hemp: Sovereignty Collides With Government

Should Native American Nations Be Treated Differently Than Anyone Else?

  • Total voters

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Alex White Plume and his extended Lakota family, or tiospaye, are known on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation for the determination and industriousness with which they have faced the hard economic choices imposed by history and reservation life. Undeterred by poor soil and uncertain weather on their land, the White Plumes planted alfalfa, barley and corn. They raised horses and buffalo. All of which brought the family little better than a subsistence life and continued reliance on government subsidies. Still, the family was resolved to achieve economic self-sufficiency, thus preserving the Lakota traditions and bonds that sustain the identity of family and tribe.

So, after much research, and under Alex’s leadership, the family planted industrial hemp, the non-psychoactive relative of marijuana. As Alex discovered, and as told in Standing Silent Nation, the new P.O.V. documentary recounting the White Plumes’ tragi-comic adventures in hemp growing, the world is in the midst of a boom market for hemp products. The demand is no less in the United States, with this anomaly — hemp products can be sold in this country, but hemp growing is a felony. Alex wasn’t out to challenge the logic of the federal government’s drug war, but figured that tribal sovereignty allowed him to plant hemp as surely as it allowed casinos elsewhere. He was wrong.


Alex White Plume

In time for Independence Day, Suree Towfighnia and Courtney Hermann’s Standing Silent Nation premieres on Tuesday, July 3, 2007 at 10 p.m. on PBS, as part of the 20th anniversary season of PBS’s groundbreaking P.O.V. series. (Check local listings.) American television’s longest-running independent documentary series, P.O.V. is public television’s premier showcase for point-of-view, nonfiction films.

The “silent nation” is the Lakota name for the plants and grasses of the plains that sustained the buffalo herds, and later the horses, which in turn sustained the people called “Sioux” (a term coined by would-be French colonizers). But the buffalo herds — and Indian access to the grasslands of the West — all but disappeared as the tribes were corralled into ever-smaller and more-arid reservations, where government-issued corn could not thrive and grazing lands were too poor to support herds. This is the history behind Pine Ridge, whose name is also synonymous with Native American resistance to American dominance, from the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre to 1971’s “Wounded Knee” standoff between the FBI and the American Indian Movement (AIM) to the 1975 Pine Ridge Shootout — and with Lakota persistence in preserving tribal life.

Inevitably the harsh realities of reservation economies — or lack of them — are true of Pine Ridge. Only 84,000 of the reservation’s 2 million acres are suitable for agriculture. Unemployment runs as high as 85 percent. Sixty-six percent of the people live in substandard housing. Life expectancy on Pine Ridge is among the lowest in the Western Hemisphere — 47 to 56 years. But Standing Silent Nation finds both resistance and persistence alive on Pine Ridge, especially among the White Plumes, whose goal is to free themselves of dependence on the federal government. The family’s land grant at Pine Ridge may be a rough patch of the sacred earth, but they know that to maintain the tiospaye — to remain Lakota — they must regain their self-sufficiency.

In hemp, the White Plumes surely found the perfect “silent nation” ally, a plant whose hardiness, utility and low cost had already been proven by the government who encouraged its growth during its “Hemp for Victory” campaign during World War II. With a fast 120-day growing cycle and no need for expensive or toxic chemicals to flourish, hemp is a boon to the environment whenever it is used in paper or wood products. It is so tough that even on the semi-arid land of Pine Ridge — as events were to prove — it is almost impossible to eradicate once planted. Most of all, soaring domestic and world demand for industrial hemp as forests shrink and the cost of wood rises, makes hemp a “ready cash crop.”

Fortified by this economic logic and believing himself protected by tribal sovereignty, Alex White Plume also relied on some readily available information. Not only does industrial hemp lack marijuana’s psychoactive THC element, its presence quickly dilutes the potency of any marijuana plants nearby. If anything, hemp growing would tend to crowd out pot growing. Yet Alex could hardly be unaware of the federal government’s well-publicized drive against all things even tangentially related to marijuana. So what happened was both a surprise and not.

As Standing Silent Nation relates, the Oglala Sioux Tribe passed an ordinance in 1998 allowing the cultivation of low-THC hemp on the reservation, which they distinguished from higher-THC marijuana. In April 2000, the White Plumes planted their first crop. In a surprise attack on August 24, 2000 at 6 a.m., federal agents, armed with guns and weed-wackers, chopped the plants down in the same manner they would use to eradicate marijuana. This event, and others that followed, raises a number of questions: Why did the government wait for the first crop to reach maturity before acting? Why did FBI and DEA agents raid the fields at daybreak with an array of armor and guns? Why have they continued to raid the White Plumes’ land, even when the hemp grew back of its own accord, and to bring charges that could put Alex in prison for as long as 10 years? What lies behind the government’s persistent objection to hemp?


Should the growing of hemp fall into the same class of crimes as murder, which allows the federal government to override tribal sovereignty? This is the question that matters most to the White Plumes and the other Lakota of Pine Ridge, for whom sovereignty is the last, if much transgressed, defense for Native American rights. Unfortunately, no one from the Drug Enforcement Administration was permitted to explain to the filmmakers the reasoning behind the government’s actions.

Standing Silent Nation, shot over the course of four years, is an eye-opening account of reservation life that belies popular images of casino mini-states. It is the story of one Lakota family’s struggle to retain tribal identity and sovereignty against the odds of history and current government policy.

“Our purpose in visiting the Pine Ridge Reservation was to meet Alex White Plume, the first person to grow industrial hemp within the boundaries of the United States in over 40 years, and to document his harvest celebration,” says director Suree Towfighnia. “When the crew arrived on August 10, 2002 and we first met Alex, he apologized for being in a bad mood on such a beautiful morning. Ten minutes before, federal agents had served him with a summons that detailed eight federal civil charges filed against him by the U.S. District Attorney. I asked if we could put a microphone on him. He agreed and we started filming.”

“The film originally dealt with the American farm community’s right to grow industrial hemp,” says producer Courtney Hermann. “As Alex’s story unfolded, our focus shifted. We now see hemp as a vehicle through which a larger and arguably more important issue is playing out — the sovereignty of the Lakota Nation.”

Standing Silent Nation is a production of Prairie Dust Films in association with Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT).

About the filmmakers:

Suree Towfighnia
Suree Towfighnia is an independent filmmaker and freelance director living in Chicago. A recipient of the 2004 Studs Terkel scholarship from the Community Media Workshop, she earned her masters in fine arts degree in documentary filmmaking at Columbia College, Chicago, where she and Courtney Hermann worked as co-technical coordinators of the Michael Rabiger Center for Documentary. Her thesis film, “Tampico” (2006), chronicles a woman’s struggle to survive by playing her family’s music in the subways of Chicago. Towfighnia teaches media making to youth and teens and is a partner, with Courtney Hermann, in Chicago-based Prairie Dust Films.

Courtney Hermann
Courtney Hermann is an independent documentary filmmaker and educator from Portland, Ore. She recently received the Outstanding Faculty Award at the Art Institute of Portland, where she is an instructor in the Digital Film and Video Department. Hermann has produced and directed several short documentaries, including “Granite Janet” (2000), nominated for the International Documentary Association’s David L. Wolper Award. She earned a master of fine arts degree in film and video production from Columbia College, Chicago, where she and Suree Towfighnia worked as co-technical coordinators of the Michael Rabiger Center for Documentary. Her most recent documentary is “Left on Wild Road” (a work in progress) about the last days of the Exotic World Burlesque Museum, an old Route 66 roadside attraction.

Director: Suree Towfighnia
Producer: Courtney Hermann
Cinematographer: Suree Towfighnia
Editor: Sharon Karp

Running Time: 56:46

Awards & Festivals:
· Palm Springs Native American Film Festival, 2007
· Native Voice Film Festival, Rapid City, S.D., 2006

Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT) is one of five national consortia chartered by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to provide minority programming to the public broadcasting system. For 30 years, NAPT has supported the creation, promotion and distribution of Native public media. NAPT support has made it possible to bring to the PBS audience such quality programs as Indian Country Diaries, The Great American Foot Race, Storytellers of the Pacific, In the Light of Reverence, and many others. More information about NAPT is available at Native American Public Telecommunications. Other award-winning services of NAPT include the AIROS Native Network, AIROS Native Network, and Visionmaker Video, VisionMaker Video | Your Source for Authentic Native Videos & DVDS, distributor of authentic documentaries by and about Native Americans. NAPT receives major support from CPB and the Ford Foundation.

News Hawk- User 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Native American Times
Contact: Native American Times - America's Largest Independent, Native American News Source
Copyright: Native American Times
Website: News Source

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Re: Native Americans Growing Hemp: Sovereignty Collides With Government

I say YES!

sov·er·eign (sŏv'ər-ĭn, sŏv'rĭn)
One that exercises supreme, permanent authority, especially in a nation or other governmental unit, as:
A king, queen, or other noble person who serves as chief of state; a ruler or monarch.
A national governing council or committee.
A nation that governs territory outside its borders.
A gold coin formerly used in Great Britain.
Self-governing; independent: a sovereign state.
Having supreme rank or power: a sovereign prince.
Paramount; supreme: Her sovereign virtue is compassion.
Of superlative strength or efficacy: a sovereign remedy.
Unmitigated: sovereign contempt.

[Middle English soverain, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *superānus, from Latin super, above.]



New Member
i say yes because they have had those traditions for many years even befor the "white man" came 2 america and they sould not have 2 chang make them stop growing is like make a black man stop listening 2 rap or a renneck stop jacking up there trucks my point iz wat the goverment iz doin iz wrong and sould not be going on this iz tha peoplez country not the goverments


New Member
^ I say yes, and btw thanks for the insiders edition, you tooks the words right out of my mouth

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
/\ i was waiting to see what you'd say. i knew it would be different somehow.

I don't understand what sovereign nation really means. Doesn't that mean you stop sucking on the fucking teats of the US govt? Then I'm all for it!
Does it mean that we support them forever? Get an education & go forth in the work place mo fos. Religious freedom plus sovereign nation status does not = you get to sit round the rez collecting govt. checks, free medicine, food stamps from ANOTHER nation just because you'd rather raise a few buffalo and bitch about lifes unfairness. Get a fucking job!
Does it mean a set of double standards as in my community where there are 3 casinos (2 w/ hotels) run by one tribe & yet they are the biggest draw on our welfare system here?
the govt. made the rules. its treaties which are supposed to be honored above all other laws. if we actually end up keeping a couple that don't work out so good for the dominate classes so be it, i can live with that.

if someone wants to sit around the rez and waste their lives its their life. if someone wants to live on the rez and make their life really work to full potential that cool too. hell there are indians who don't even know they are indians. there are whites who are more indians than some indians and indians who are more white than white people. i guess i can just think of worse ways that we spend money besides helping out our native brothers and sisters.

it sure is more interesting when everyone doesn't agree :cool:


New Member
Thanks for the article User. I forwarded it to several of my pals including my best friend who is native american. You would not believe what I've found out over the years. It would break any human's heart. Think of all the worst things you've ever heard about what happened to them and multiple it a million times. Around here we will all be watching the show on July 3 but it will be hard. This is the DEA at their fucking finest.
Yes, Indian Nations should be allowed to grow hemp.
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New Member
gosh i wish i would of read this before i voted.. i thought i understood the question... << ill slap myself in the forehead...

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
gosh i wish i would of read this before i voted.. i thought i understood the question... << ill slap myself in the forehead...
my bad really. i should have worded this poll better as well as the questions.

Herb Fellow

New Member
Sovereignty of the Native American's land should be observed. The Federal government doesn't understand the word "sovereignty," therefore, the Fed's don't recognize State sovereignty either. The United States was created to be similar to the EU; made up of individual sovereign states. However, as we all know the Fed's put their laws above those of sovereign states and sovereign nations.


New Member
Looks like Obama is lobbying' hard for their votes.
Native American Times - America's Largest Independent, Native American News Source

Nothin' I see
But I did get this the other day:
"In September 7, 2007 the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples inspiring "The Sovereignty Project" which has laid the path before us for our own Nation "The Cannabis Nation" to rise and be known as the Nation of Common Thread People below is some inspiring information along with the full version of each document.
From The Sovereignty Project :

"For the first time on the North American continent, an estimated three hundred local and international Indigenous Elders and Tribal representatives are expected to join in signing documents destined to go down in the annals of history as amongst the most powerful and globally significant since the Magna Charta and the now beleaguered, Constitution of the United States of America.

Described as ‘Declarations of Continuing Sovereignty’, the documents were created for use by individuals, tribes and whole nations to “peacefully proclaim and effectively live their full and unalienable rights as Original Sovereign People”, Jule du Varrens, an Australian-based project consultant for the group, said earlier today.

Inspired in part by the apparent lack of a ‘truly inclusive’ consultative process in the creation of the recently adopted UN’s Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples, these Gatherings and Declarations of indigenous communities around the world are, for many, considered to be the only sustainable and peaceful solution towards true self governance and determination.

The Elders, (Hereditary Chiefs, Clan Mothers, Faith Keepers and collaborators) who refer to their activities as “The Sovereignty Project”, conservatively(?) estimate upwards of a billion people worldwide are now represented within their alliance."


Well-Known Member
I say join us as Americans, and fight the battle with us, or screw you and I will take all that land back, thank you. They are a conquered people.

(I am part American Indian) Does that mean I get a bunch of land and natural resources and my own laws? In the middle of my country? Screw that. They need to get with the program. They remind me of puerto rico. They want to vote, they want all the government support money, but they don't wan't to live under our rules, or give anything back. Last time I checked, they live on the same continent that I do.


Well-Known Member
I hate to sound evil, but segregation is not a solution to current or future social problems, for anyone. You can argue we did the same thing to many races over the years in one form or another. Everyone should have basic human rights as described in the constitution. If we focus on that, and honor thier culture as much as we honor any other culture in this country, half of this wouldn't even be an issue.

If we continue on this path, there will be no more native americans left. We gave 1% of them the wealth of gambling, 1% the wealth of massive coal leases, and 98% of them all the alcohol they can drink. Certain destruction for any society.
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Herb Fellow

New Member
I hate to sound evil, but . . .
We know you are evil Boss; all y'all folks from Caliarimissuflorapenolina. You probably even hang out with that lady, Mary J. Wanna!:smokin2:
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