See these guys? They are drug war enforcers, government bullies who break into people's homes and destroy things like medical marijuana and cart people off to jail for such heinous offenses as relieving pain and nausea from chemotherapy. In this particular picture they are trespasing on Lakota land on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, specifically a farm belonging to Alex White Plume. Are they after such horrifying stuff as medical marijuana? NO. In this instance the thugs are there to rip up a crop of industrial hemp, stuff that has so little THC(the stuff that gets you buzzed) you couldn't ingest enough to get high! Why, you might ask, was White Plume foolish enough to even try such a thing as planting a wonderfully useful crop that poses no danger to anyone(not that fully active marijuana is dangerous, but it does get you high and according to the puritans running the government, that job is best left to addictive, organ destroying alcohol)? Well Alex White Plume was acting in response to an initiative passed by the Oglala Lakota tribal government . 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 as part of its "war on drugs." Yhis land was designated "... 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. They went in with machine guns and air support. Our tax dollars at work.
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. by Don Trent Jacobs Feb. 20, 2001
"Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere." -- George Washington, 1794
The US government's raid on Alex White Plume's industrial hemp crop on the PineRidge Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation is merely the latest chapter in a long legacy of genocide that has been practiced on the American continent 500 years.Alex White Plume and his tiyospaye (extended family) planted their hemp inaccordance with tribal ordinances. It was the beginning of hope and a way to emerge from poverty. On Aug. 24, 2000, federal agents robbed them of that hope.If White Plume or any of the other Lakota individuals had resisted, they might have been shot or imprisoned, and who knows for how long. Consider White Plume'snephew who is serving his third year in jail for having broken out the windows ofa car. Then there is Leonard Peltier, another Lakota from Pine Ridge, now listedby Amnesty International as one of the top 10 political prisoners in the world.Alex's wife, Debra, a strong, beautiful woman, has fought relentlessly andarticulately to implement traditional Lakota values for many years. A month afterthe raid, she appeared more ready than ever to continue the good fight. "In theold days," she said, "they could not tell the difference between good Indians andbad ones so they killed us all. Now they do not know the difference between hempand marijuana so they kill all of it."The worldview of Lakota people demands economic projects on the reservation thatare friendly to the earth and beneficial to all. Hemp is one of the few productsthat fulfills this vision. It is a very earth-compatible, pesticide-free crop.Just ask Ralph Nader, who made hemp production a campaign issue and who probablyknows that major chemical, paper, and timber industries have much more to do withmaking hemp illegal in the US than any concern about drugs.The contradictions surrounding this issue are just part of the endless dance of deception the US government does with American Indians. For example, the PineRidge Indian Reservation was designated a federal empowerment zone in 1998 inorder to "help individuals and communities achieve self actualization and fullcitizenship." This goal aligns well with official federal Indian policy aimed atself-determination and viable economic independence.One cannot imagine an industry more appropriate to the empowerment zone goal than hemp production. The White Plumes currently make $450 dollars a year by renting their 160 acres to a white cattle rancher for grazing -- which can do untold damage to the fragile ecology. The seized hemp from the acre and a half they planted was estimated to have been worth between $12,000 and $20,000.After two years, however, the $20 million empowerment-zone allocation has been no more fulfilling than other half-hearted and bureaucratically stifled gestures. As has been the case for the past 100 years, they are just enough to keep the reservations dependent upon and at the mercy of the feds.Consider that the US government sanctions environmentally disastrous pig farmsand the extraction of minerals on tribal lands while denying a right to tribal nations that it gives to many other nations. Recent trade agreements such as GATTand NAFTA have allowed countries such as Canada to grow and export hemp products grown on their sovereign land to the US. The sovereign rights of the Lakota nation as spelled out in the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868 and numerous Supreme Court cases should give the Lakota nation similar trading rights.But Indian sovereignty has never been a goal of the US government. Consider theIndian Reorganization Act of 1934, a statute that robbed what was left of traditional indigenous sovereignty by setting up highly corruptible tribal councils whose main function was to sign off on federal development programs on the reservations. Reservation resources, had they not been co-opted by the US government with the help of these corrupt tribal councils, might have made PineRidge one of the the wealthiest regions in the country, rather than the poorest. The US government's treatment of American Indian sovereignty is, for all of us,of great significance. If American Indian sovereignty is under siege, so is American sovereignty. If US wealth is dependent upon impoverishment of its Indian peoples, we are all impoverished.In their 1998 book "Sovereignty under Siege: A Study of Federal Seizure of Indian Jurisdiction," Robert L. Pirtle and M. Frances Ayer say the Supreme Court has, in past decisions regarding American Indians, rewritten the Constitution like so:"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men except Indians are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator except in the case of Indians with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit ofhappiness except in the case of Indians ... to secure these rights, governments are institued among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed unless they are Indians."This Anglo folly has finally caught up with us in our polluted environments. At least Indians, refusing to blend into the dominant culture, continue to live insocieties that are more personal and more humane. They continue to fight for ecological sustainable products like hemp houses and clothes. They continue to honor the universal values of courage, humility, honesty, fortitude, and patience.This is not just about giving American Indian people back their dignity by allowing them to prosper economically through ecologically sound, spiritually based farming of hemp. It is more than an issue of justice, sovereignty or constitutional revision and interpretation. Nor is it merely about an out-of-control Drug Enforcement Administration or the negative influences of multinational corporations. Ultimately, this issue is about saving a world viewthat recognizes that we are all shaped and formed by our relationship to the earth. Mitakuye Oyasin. We are all related.
Don Jacobs, Ph.D., Ed.D., is chair of education at Oglala Lakota College on thePine Ridge Indian Reservation.
e-qua yona, Cherokee for 'big bear' is the only nick name I've ever had, at least one I liked. One of my favorite ever students called me that when I taught for the Eastern Band Cherokee. It is Mato Tanka in Lakota.
I have lived a nomadic life and have enjoyed most of it so far.
Seeking balance with the universe or great mystery is what life oughta be about.