By Chris Ryan Industrial Hemp is being successfully grown on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and used for insulation, and as fiber chaff for adobe. Some is turned into paper.
The founder of the industrial hemp project is Alex White Plume, American Indian and former Vice President of the Oglala Sioux Nation. He’s been growing hemp for several years. The Oglala Sioux suffer from 85 percent unemployment. Jobs and homes are needed desperately. Most have no running water or electricity in their homes.
White Plume seeks to overcome this by developing industrial hemp as an agricul- tural resource. He started his program to create jobs for his family and tribe. Much of Pine Ridge has farming on it, but only one- third of the monies generated goes to the tribe. When he realized that market prices for hemp were higher than those for other crops, he decided to try growing some to generate income.
“I thought if I could sell a crop… I could afford a new pickup truck,” said White Plume. At harvest time, he invited local and federal authorities to come and observe his harvest. Instead, the DEA invaded the reservation and plowed his hemp under using a plow-equipped tank.
When the DEA took Plume to court, it was shown that the hemp was a strain with virtually no THC content.
It stirred a controversy over treaty rights and the sovereignty of the Indian Nations that continues to this day. Under the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868, the Indians are guaranteed agricultural assis- tance by the US government, and local autonomy on Indian Nation lands.
It also started a tradition. The plowed- under mature, seed bearing herb started growing that next spring. Plants still grow from stock sown by the DEA. The seeds germinate where they fall, and the leaves and tops decompose and mulch where they are harvested, fertilizing the field.
The harvested hemp is hand-stripped in the fields where it is shorn of tops, seeds, and leaves, which are left to enrich the soil where they are harvested. Remaining stalks are dried, and decorticated using a simple machine invented and patented by Thomas Jefferson.
Dried chopped hemp stalks are used as insulation and as fiber chaff for adobe, which is poured into forms and allowed to dry, much like concrete. The adobe pro- vides load bearing walls used for housing and storage buildings. The chipped stalks also insulate those structures. This pro- vides badly needed housing at minimal expense, using readily available local mate- rials, (mud, water, and hemp.)
Labor costs are contained by using the local Oglala reservation as a workforce. Their labor constitutes sweat equity as down payment for housing.
This also provides the beginning of a skilled work force which promises to expand beyond the reservation providing needed jobs and affordable housing. Ryan is a Yippie! aka `The Anarchist.’ and founder of Ohio Hempfest.