July 04, 2007

Standing Silent Nation on PBS

The Battle Over Hemp on an Indian ReservationThe story is about the White Plumes, an impoverished, endangered Lakota family on the struggling Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (the site of the Wounded Knee massacre) in South Dakota. Citing the reservation’s right as a sovereign nation (established by treaty) to grow whatever it might on its hardscrabble land, the White Plumes tried seven years ago to harvest industrial hemp.

Many other American Indians joined forces with them. Unemployment on the reservation stands at 85 percent. Their hope was that a banner crop like hemp (a botanical cousin of marijuana), which cannot by law be grown elsewhere in the United States, might get the tribe working again.

But in spite of the apparent consensus that hemp crops would be good for the future of the Lakota, and the widespread doubt about the danger of hemp for the body politic, federal agents raided the crops the very first year. They took in trucks, guns and weed-whackers. They whacked and seized. And then the war was on.
A question of freedom:  Documentary airing on PBS addresses one man's fight for sovereignty"Standing Silent Nation" is a film made by Lakota and
American people--a Lakota story told through the lens of American filmmakers, Hermann said in a phone interview.

Between interviews with drug policy analysts, tribal law attorneys and a former CIA head, the film follows White Plume and his expansive yet close-knit family in Pine Ridge, the same reservation where the Wounded Knee Massacre took place in 1890 and where the American Indian Movement would make a stand against the FBI 80 years later.

Again, the conflict between nations comes down to sovereignty, as a small nation seeks to assert its rights to life and economic sustainability on its own terms.

"When did you get your authority to administer justice over me as an indigenous person on this continent?" White Plume asks in the film.

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