As South Dakota Gov. Noem Opposes Hemp, Tribes See Opportunity

Gov. Noem has blocked industrial hemp from being grown in the state

As Alex White Plume gathered his children and grandchildren along the bank of Wounded Knee Creek to harvest hemp in September, he was one of just a handful of farmers in South Dakota with hopes of making money from the crop this year.

Gov. Kristi Noem has blocked industrial hemp from being grown in the state, but that’s not stopping Native Americans who can regulate their own hemp crops under the 2018 Farm Bill. Many tribes are drawn to hemp’s potential for bringing profits to communities that badly need it. They say that Noem’s resistance is giving them an advantage to getting into the market, even as it may complicate their ability to transport and sell it.

White Plume first tried to grow hemp on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation when the Oglala Sioux Tribe passed an ordinance allowing industrial hemp in 1998. His efforts put him at odds with the federal government, including Drug Enforcement Administration agents who came to his land in 2000 armed with guns and weed trimmers to destroy his crops.

White Plume said hemp could bring money to his home in what he calls “the poorest community in the poorest county in the United States.” He also said hemp could replace plastics and synthetic material in textiles.

And Noem’s stance against hemp cultivation? That’s just fine with White Plume.

“I give thanks to Noem,” he said. “It gives me a chance and my family a chance to get ahead.”

The 2018 Farm Bill cleared the way for states and tribes to grow hemp by submitting their plans to the Department of Agriculture. Earlier that year, White Plume decided it was time to harvest hemp again, relying on the argument that he was on tribal land made sovereign by treaties with the U.S. government.

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