Friday, August 28, 2009

The Treaties and The White Plumes First Hemp Crop

We came to understand that the Treaty of 1868 means a lot to the Lakota people. To them, these were instruments signed in blood and that the Lakota people gave their word to live by. To the White Man and our ancestors, it appears, the Treaty was all well and good until Gold and Silver were discovered in the Black Hills, part of the land guaranteed to the tribe under the treaty. Then it was time to renegotiate.

The struggle for the rights to this sacred land continues today. As far as the Lakota are concerned, there is no issue. The Treaty gave them clear rights to the land for all time. As far as the White Man is concerned, business is business, and we will be damned if we are giving back Deadwood! Once again the differences in our culture are blatantly clear. The Lakota have been offered hundreds of millions of dollars to settle the issue of the Black Hills. But this is money that still remains in trust as some of the poorest people in the country righteously refuse to take blood money for their sacred land.

As part of the Treaty of 1868, the tribes were also given sovereign rights. In 1998 the Tribal Council segregated the growing and possession of Marijuana, which is illegal on the Reservation, from Hemp, which is not.

The White Plumes, inspired by the decision and looking for a profitable future for their family that did not include the degrading reliance on the Casino, or the downward spiral of the bottle and began to formulate the plans for an enterprise that would look toward that future.

After having examined the per acre yield from a variety of crops suitable for their parched soil, in 1998, they planted their first crop of Industrial Hemp on 1.5 acres of their families land. With little experience at farming, the first crop didn’t make it. In 1999 they tried again but still had problems producing a viable crop. Learning from experience, in 2000 they planted again and this time the crop was successful, with the plants soaring into the brilliant blue South Dakota sky. Although the White Plumes had invited the U.S. Attorney to witness the harvest, at the end of the growing season they awoke one morning to the sound of helicopters. Armed with machine guns the DEA raided their farm, cut down their plants, and turned their dream into a nightmare.

As the DEA descended upon their farm, Alex went and took a shower. “If they were going to arrest me, I was at least going to be clean”.

But arrest him, they did not. The events that would follow next would be comical if it were not for the fact that they impacted people’s lives. Not just “Indians on the Reservation”, but Alex & Debra White Plume, their family and their friends. These are real people, and I am proud to have met them.

Next in this series: The Lakota Way

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