Opinion: Injustice for Oglala Lakota family
"Starting in the mid-1800s, Native Americans were corralled onto reservations on isolated scraps of arid land. Since then, the voice of their suffering has barely been heard across the vast ­nation that they once populated, respected, and loved. Gang violence, ­alcoholism, hunger, and poverty have become part of daily life on reservations. Most distressingly, economic independence is often an unattainable goal for these impoverished communities.

The White Plume family of the Oglala Sioux tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, glimpsed a beacon of hope when their sovereign ­nation passed an ordinance differentiating industrial hemp from its illegal cousin, marijuana. Their story is depicted in the powerful documentary “Standing Silent Nation.”

Alex White Plume and his extended family first planted hemp in April 2000, hoping to provide a brighter future for their family and their reservation. Alex believed hemp to be an ideal crop because it is robust, inexpensive and fast to grow, environmentally friendly (it requires no pesticides), and has innumerable uses. However, though the market for hemp is booming in the U.S. and abroad, growing this crop in America is a felony because of its relationship to marijuana. But unlike marijuana, hemp contains less than 1 percent of the psychoactive chemical THC and is therefore unuseable as a drug. Furthermore, if mixed with marijuana, hemp dilutes the potency of the drug.

Armed with tribal sovereignty and logic, Alex felt his harvest could improve his life and that of his ­people. But to his dismay, agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) carried out a ­surprise attack on the White Plume family in August 2000. Armed with machine guns and helicopters, the agents eradicated the entire crop. When the hemp grew back on its own a year later, Alex endured two more raids and was slapped with eight federal civil charges that carried up to ten years in prison."

Get the Story:
Stephanie T.: Injustice for the White Plumes (Teen Ink October 2009)

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