Tribe from Minnesota sees profit in hemp


Logan Lowrey-Rasmussen

After a Native American tribe in Minnesota began the cultivation of hemp, the goal of a self-sustaining economy became more viable.

Last year, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) gave the Minnesota Department of Agriculture permission to start a hemp pilot project in which six participants grew on 40 acres. The White Earth tribe of northern Minnesota joined after submitting their application to grow earlier this year.

Hemp is a close relative to the cannabis plant and does not possess the same psychoactive qualities which get the user “high.” The plant can be used to produce fibers, building materials, food, rope and more. It was federally legalized for research purposes three years ago after a long period of prohibition.

The White Earth tribe uses seeds imported from Canada and Europe to grow five varieties of hemp. Processing requires mills to chop plant stocks, extract fibers and squeeze oil from the seeds.

The challenges of producing hemp made tribal officials cautious about profiting from it, but they found motivation in the creation of jobs and construction materials. Hemp also fits with the White Earth Nation’s plan for sustainable food production. The hemp plots had no fertilizer or pesticides added.

White Earth chair Terry Tibbetts said creating a hemp industry would be a good way for the tribe to utilize its limited resources. Since the land is a renewable resource, the tribe can use it to build a sustainable economy.

“The only thing that we have is gaming,” Tibbetts added. “….we don’t know how long Indian gaming is going to be around.”