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Indigenous activists turn to hemp production to emphasize sustainability, win MN grant

Winona LaDuke, at right, is a well-known indigenous activist and writer. Source: Sarah Deer for Wikimedia Commons

Well-known indigenous Minnesota activists have turned to growing hemp and cannabis in an effort to reclaim a centuries-old harvesting practice and promote environmental sustainability.

The Anishinaabe Agricultural Institute is an activist group headed up by Minnesota native, environmentalist and writer Winona LaDuke. Recently, the AAI won a $25,000 grant from a Minnesota agency to pursue its hemp cultivation efforts.

According to the West Central Tribune, a division of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture awarded the AAI nonprofit with the $25,000 to help the group with a program to promote hemp usage across the state. [1]

The group, started by the Anishinaabe band of White Earth, aims to promote sustainability and indigenous empowerment through education about crop-growing and other agricultural endeavors.

“We globalized our economy and shifted our manufacturing overseas,” LaDuke told Twin Cities Business Magazine. “We need to reindustrialize—appropriately.” [2]

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant Program which awarded AAI the money gave out as much as $200,000 to 2019 applicants. [3]

The grant applies to projects dedicated to “farm diversification using traditional and non-traditional crops and livestock,” “on-farm energy production, such as wind, methane, or biomass,” and other projects like the one by AAI. [3]

Nicolette Slagle works with LaDuke at AAI, according to the WCT. [1]

"Our big goal is promoting hemp," Slagle told the WCT. "To try and use hemp as a tool for community and economic development.”

Reports show the team at AAI is particularly interested in manufacturing and textile uses for industrial hemp plants. [1] [2]

In those areas, hemp has been used for centuries in rope-making, ship-building and clothes production, but more recently bioplastics and construction materials have also attracted hemp engineers.

“It represents the next economy,” LaDuke told Twin Cities Business Magazine. “On a worldwide scale, and particularly in North America, increasing numbers of people are buying organic. I’m interested in having my community be part of the organic industry. Hemp is definitely a crop of the future—and it’s been grown for 10,000 years.” [2]


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