Environmental Activist Winona LaDuke Plans to Revitalize Hemp as an Emerging Enterprise to Create a Green Economy for the Next Generation of Native American Farmers

Published August 29, 2019

WHITE EARTH INDIAN RESERVATION — In the treaty territories and reservation of the Anishinaabeg, or the Ojibwe people, Winona LaDuke is planning the next economy. “Hemp is a cornerstone of a post petroleum economy and needs to be reintegrated into rural farming, particularly Indigenous farming,” says Winona LaDuke who is poised to elevate her Hemp and Heritage Farm by launching a national crowd-sourcing initiative to further protect the Earth and revitalize the once vibrant hemp-fiber industry in Minnesota.

Winona’s Hemp & Heritage Farm, located near the White Earth Reservation in Northern Minnesota, is working with the Anishinaabe Agricultural Institute to build a new locally-grown economy based on food, energy, and fiber through a new hemp production facility on LaDuke’s own independent land adjacent to nearby tribal lands. Hemp mills are not new to Minnesota, but they have not been active since the government shut them down in 1944. According to Hempology, the 11 hemp mills that were built in 1943 were forced to shut down one year later by the U.S. government, citing lack of needs due to ‘war purposes.’

Essentially, farmers suffered financial despair, as they were expecting to reap a significant profit thanks to hemp’s bounty. Ultimately, the farmers had nowhere to turn to manufacture their crops due to the government orders to shut down.

Nearly 70 years later, Winona LaDuke was one of the first participants in 2016 to receive an official industrial permit to grow hemp in the state of Minnesota. Winona’s vision is to generate local wealth in her community by establishing a farm that prospers from native heritage foods and also by implementing renewable hemp farming practices. In addition, her goal is to restore the land and provide farmers with the financial hope they deserve by cultivating industrial hemp.

“Sustainably speaking, hemp has been misunderstood for so many years. Not anymore. Hemp is our seed of hope. We plant these seeds and I see our future in which we flourish,” explains LaDuke. “When I work in our fields, I know my ancestors are watching us all. Our prophecies call this the time of the seventh fire, and we are instructed to choose a green or scorched path. This is the green path- fiber hemp and hemp overall is the key to the post petroleum economy. It’s time to wean ourselves from a hydrocarbon economy, and move back to a carbohydrate economy. The Green path is here”.

Winona’s Hemp and Heritage Farm is on a mission to make hemp not only the solution, but the key stimulator for economic growth in the region. “We’re raising more than $250,000 to launch our hemp mill fiber and textile operations. The main purpose for the mill is to make fiber for clothing and eventually high-quality paper, rope, food products and sustainable housing materials,” says LaDuke. “Native people have been working with hemp for centuries and our indigenous leaders are urging us to move forward and be there for the farmers of today to grow our future together,” she shares.

Hemp vs Cotton

Research indicates that cotton needs about 50 percent more water per season than hemp, which can grow with little irrigation. More than 70% of the global cotton harvest comes from irrigated land, which poses a risk for groundwater contamination. Hemp takes very little water and is strong enough to grow in fields without depleting our natural resources.

Food, Energy & Fuel

Winona’s Hemp and Heritage Farm utilizes solar power for its buildings, and horse-based energy in their fields. Vegetables and supplying food to the community is another passion of Winona’s. “We grow food such as corn, potatoes, squash, beans and other vegetables that focuses on regenerative farming and most importantly focuses on reduced petroleum agriculture,” explains LaDuke. “The future is organic; it’s green and local.”

Kickstart Campaign

Join Winona LaDuke and her fundraising efforts to fight climate change, build community, stimulate a new economy, and preserve the Anishinaabe Akiing territory, a beautiful land of biodiversity and pristine waters in Minnesota.

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