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Can Hemp Help Sustain Native Americans?

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Marc Grignon is a spokesman for an organization that raises awareness on the benefits of hemp, especially among the tribal communities. He is a member of Wisconsin’s Menominee tribe, which is composed of more than 8,000 members. The tribe’s history is said to date back to 10,000 years ago and used to dominate 10 million acres of land in Wisconsin and Michigan.

On this article, Grignon talks about how he has become an advocate for hemp and why he believes that this plant can help sustain Native Americans.

Discovery of Hemp

Grignon first encountered the Menominee term, “Shaeqnap” during his final semester in college. The word literally means wild hemp and refers to a plant that’s capable of growing up to 8 feet high. This plant has many uses although the tribe uses it mainly for fiber, and in producing baskets, bowstrings etc. He was very fascinated with the plant, however, the Menominee Culture Commission was less enthusiastic about it because of the stigma surrounding cannabis use.

As a long-time advocate of hemp, this was a great disappointment for Grignon, especially since he had long wanted for the plant to provide the tribe with a stable source of income. However, over time, the tribe’s attitude towards hemp started to change.

Growing Hemp with the Tribe

It was in 2015 when Grignon started working with the Agricultural and Research Project that involved the planting of hemp seeds. At this time, the Menominee tribe had just passed a law that allowed for the reservation to plant industrial hemp for research.

Grignon saw the hemp industry as a natural economic drive for the tribe. He was 100 percent involved in the monitoring and in taking care of the plants and would go as far as pulling the weeds himself along with the other tribe members. 

Constant Threat from Law

The Menominees Tribe took all the legal precautions when growing hemp. They informed the law enforcement about it as well as their plans to grow during the cultivation season. Unfortunately, the feds felt the need to check the fields and strong words were exchanged between the tribal leaders.

Despite the feds insisting to stop the cultivation, they moved forward with it. They continued to tend to their 3 acres of hemp and all this time, the law enforcement sustained their efforts of preventing the tribe from cultivating hemp. Unfortunately, around October 2015, the feds decided to raid the fields, which was a giant blow to the tribe’s operations.

Advocacy Continues

Despite the constant threats from law enforcement, Grignon’s advocacy continued because he believed that hemp can greatly bring prosperity to the Native Americans. He saw hemp as a way for the tribe to be able to sustain themselves financially. The crops could be a good source of sustainable profit that would help bring the tribe back to their roots. Some tribes are expected to follow suit and will take part in what’s believed to be an economy that can greatly change the many facets of the Native Americans’ lives.

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