Lakota Hemp Days

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By Ruth Fahrbach
0n Aug. 25, 2004, Ruth, Scouting-Hemptress, rode off to witness with her own eyes the second annual hemp harvest at the Lakota hemp fields near Manderson, South Dakota.

The fundamental belief held by folks who attend this meeting is that industrial hemp can save the planet by contributing to good housing and filling empty bellies with the highest protein next to soy; and that biodiesel fuel can run all the Rez cars.

An alliance has been steadily growing over the past four years among the Lakota Hemp Project, Hemp Industries Association (HIA), and Hemp companies nationwide. Webster defines alliance as “‘an association to further the common interests of the members, union by relationship in qualities: affinity.”

By the time I reached the encampment of hempsters, it was time to hop on the tour van and find the hemp fields. It was definitely not safe for the Lakota Hemp people to go due, to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and FBI summoning them to court
the followina week. There was no telling if the DEA would show up and catch us in the act of pulling up plants. We did cut or pull out the seeded plants and broadcast the seeds around for future crops.

The federal requirement for taking industrial hemp is that all leaves and seeds be stripped off the stalk and only the stalk remains. A person can be busted by the DEA if only one leaf is left on the stalk. How outrageous when one is told how to do something and then gets busted anyway!
After stripping the stalk with knives and hands, we bundled up our stalks at each location and took them down to the creek to “ret” (soak). Retting takes days to weeks, in order to loosen the fiber off the stalk.

At the Meeting House, up the hill, there was much enthusiasm to begin the process of hackling. We used already retted hemp for this. The homemade wooden “hackler” has a V-shaped operable top and the sheaves are placed along the bottom rack. The top is dropped down repeatedly to split up the stalks.

A spinning wheel can make the separated fiber into rope or twine. Being a former sheepherder, experienced in using the Navajo Top spindle, I was elected to try my hand at the wheel and form some hemp twine.

place as we all tried to learn what the metal loops were for, what tension adjustments to make, etc. Whenever I started to spin, it would go right-then a bit too left and unwind. I felt like Betsy Ross, a colonial savvy gal, who made everything ftorn scratch and usually in hemp. The founding fathers required household goods be made of hemp because it endured and did not rot.

Papermaking was our next step for day two. A Dutch-made stainless steel tub with cutters was filled with water and the hurds were soaked and agitated for many hours until a screen could filter the material and make paper pages.

Action in the field, in the factory, and among comrades of hemp-this was the real hempening. Hemp can be equated with hippie. A hippie and a hemptress, with a bit of gypsy, was real grassroots work.

Feelings ranged from intrigue, curiosity, and excitement to outrage that the Feds persist in treating the Lakota, a sovereign people, as second-class citizens who have no rights. As Lakota Alex Whiteplume stated, “Sovereignty is every man’s right.” That means you and me, folks.

Perhaps we all are second-class citizens if we can’t be allowed to grow the hempseed which gives us all our basic needs: food, clothing, shelter, and fuel. Federal law fails by stating hemp is a Schedule I controlled substance. They say this law comes before sovereign rights.

Winona LaDuke, respected Qjibwe activist from Northern Minnesota, says, “The federal government likes to support sovereignty of Indian tribes when we talk about nuclear-waste dumps, casinos, [and) toxicwaste dumps but doesn’t support sovereignty when we try to do something which is absolutely healthy.”
It is our right to grow hemp, the green plant of the green revolution: to save a tribe, a nation, a world.

Under the full moon sky, around the campfire, holding onto the talking stick, we told each other our names, where we were born, and our hemp affiliation. We listened to Lakota stories that have never been written down and must be kept in the heart and mind. The simplicity of the hemp plant for all -our basic needs seems a simple solution in a not so simple world.

On Sept. 23, at 7p.m., atA Source, a newly opened event center in Taos on King Drive off Cahon West – (770-7571), the film OWEAKU, which details the plight of the Lakota Hemp project, will be screened.
100% hemp batting panels stacked
with decorticated rough and fine fibers on top
Published in Horse Fly, September 15, 2004