Anishinaabe Hemp Conference explores new economy

News From Indian Country

Dionne Holmquist: Good morning everybody. My name is Dionne. I tried to bring you guys all some flower from Colorado but they stopped me at security there. (Laughs showing slide of the big flowering hemp plant above)

No, this is actually me holding the big hemp plant from one of the harvests this summer. But I wanted to thank Winona and everybody else and just to echo what she’s already said, that this is a historical time. This is a time for Indigenous people across the world to, like she said, have a united front because there are a lot of people, a lot of fact seekers out there and as I’m sure with Winona, and everybody else here, knows that, that pipeline doesn’t just come in the form of oil. That pipeline is coming in the form of suits.

My background is also working with ‘at risk‘ adolescent youth.


Dionne Holmquist, a CAC III Certified Addictions Counselor, licensed realtor, owner of Hemp Quest Ventures, co-owner of Hemp Spirit Extracts, and a Board Member of the Vita Earth Spirit, Holistic and Humanitarian Foundation outlines the trends in hemp production and products at the 2nd Annual Anishinaabe Hemp Conference in Callaway, Minnesota February 28th, 2019.                                                Photos by DKakkak


This (slide) is from Standing Rock. I just want to give respect to the White Plume family as well.

I grew up about 20 or 30 miles from the White Plume family and I didn’t know their story, I didn’t know all of this trauma that had been happening over the years as I grew up, and so this plant is taking me back to my roots. It’s taking me back to the earth and so this I share, is still the front line. We’re all front liners in here.

“I thank everybody that’s showing up and so, I wanted again to pay respect to the Lakota Media Project, Rosebud and Debra Moore. I was hoping they were going to be here, but they weren’t able. I’m taking my energy and power to this hemp industry, to share what I can. I’m not an expert. I just have a heart for protecting the planet and humanity and mother earth.

“Okay, this (slide) is last year at the NoCo Expo that Winona was talking about. And I am an advisor to the NoCo head of Expo. And I knew that after talking Debra and Alex that there were a lot of vultures, so to speak, coming in. And I wanted to, again within my powers, do what I could do for creating a platform to raise Indigenous voices and give them the space to be heard and to tell their stories.

Not Dionne Holmquist telling my story. My story does incorporate some of their stuff but I wouldn’t be here without them and without my ancestors. So, I wanted to pay respect to them, to Doug Goodfeather, Mark Greenhand and Denah Benally, from Navajo nation. And we will be speaking again at the NoCo Hemp Expo at the end of this month.....

And this, again to reiterate what Winona says, this is one of my favorite sayings; ‘Oh the fool builds fast and high those towers of isolation. It is the wise who build slow and wide the foundations of community.’

That’s exactly again what Winona was talking about and all of us, we have an opportunity to create, and I guess to regenerate the community of Indigenous people across the lands. And it does take some coordinating and united front, because there are people coming into the industry and saying hey, you know what? You Alex you got all this land! I’ll give you three million to put up a dispensary. You can make three million just like that!

Like Alex said, ‘I’m not stupid. I might be Indian but I’m not dumb. I could probably make three million with my own dispensary.’

So again, its just having the right people around you to help you, but you are smart enough to know that and so again that community piece is just really important.

“If we put our efforts into the plant, she’s gonna protect us. She’s gonna clothe us. She’s gonna feed us. She’s gonna house us. She’s gonna heal us.  

This (slide) was at the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver, looking at the pollinators. You know, I think that again this plant, the bees love this plant and hemp offers a lot of opportunities, as, I like to utilize the word procreate. If you can’t collaborate, procreate. I want to work myself out of a job. I want everybody to learn. I want everybody to be growing their own food and medicine. And then I just want to be on my little plot of land.

“So growing with the right intent versus making a quick buck. That again is exactly what the oil industry did. They came in, and what I, in my conversations with Alex and Debra, the concern, the opportunity that I see is that, again, we have the opportunity to control. It’s your land. They can’t take that away from you. They can’t break your spirit. And so, get that knowledge and power and understand. Start naturally arising as the infrastructure is developed.

Winona LaDuke, owner of Winona’s Hemp and Heritage Farm discusses several of the epic tribal attemps to legally commodify marijuana for adult use, or grow hemp which have failed to date because somebody wanted to rush into business to make a lot of money, without having a good business plan or path.

And what I mean by that, it’s not like we’re he-man woman haters like The Little Rascals. We’re not hating men. It’s just, when I was at Standing Rock, and when I have been around the matriarchy and the beautiful female energy, not just with the plant but with woman, it’s just that it’s a different, it’s a different feeling.

My wife and I went into a meeting in Denver the other day. A big multi-million dollar deal we need. And our other business partner wasn’t able to make it, and it’s a male. We show up and my wife walks up and she was like; I think we’re here to meet you. And the guy goes, we thought we were here to meet men.

I don’t want to use that as though it’s the color of my skin or female or whatever. But there is a reality to that but by the end of the conversation, boom! They’re ready, they want to do business with us and I walked out beating my chest and a female warrior! Like yeah!

So again, you know, I think it’s just a matter of being comfortable and confident with your collective around you. I have Brad. I have Shane Davis as a partner. I have all these people, new people that are coming in and that’s what we need and that’s what I felt with that matriarch energy. That you just have those people who are guiding you, and you’re strong. Nobody can stop that.

So, anyways, offering the opportunities for the plant to teach the youth and the elders. I am finding that this plant again, as we’re saying we’re reconnecting with my family. My mother grew up basically in the fields, working sugar beets. And I swore that I won’t make this plant a slave and I won’t make people a slave to it. So, I think hearing those stories of my family of going out and working the fields and getting home and maybe having enough to feed their eight brothers and sisters. With this plant, there is so much abundance that can be created for so many families and communities.

“So, pro-actively protect the plant spirit, from seed to sale. That is something that I get, and I know these guys will touch on it a lot. Just from my stories, I get a lot of calls from friends and family, different reservations and, Dionne, we want to grow! We want to grow! Well again, the reality of it is, you guys are in control to control the pace. Yes, the big suits are coming in but they can’t get on your land without you.

So really, understanding how to protect that seed, so when you get it, if we were to bring you some seed, can you grow it? Can you maintain it? Can you harvest it? Can you, can you dry it, hang it in the right places and there’s a lot of those things that come up with that. So when we have discussions with collaborating with people, those are the things just like any farmer. You know, that’s really what it’s like. When you’re growing a plant, what are you going to do with the end product? Where is it going to go?

So be the leader in stimulating eco conscious innovation. That is something I think is the coolest thing for everyone here. Because you guys have the opportunity to create the norms. To create the standards. And decide what it is that, when you’re doing your mill, or you’re doing your CBD product or whatever it is, ask a lot of questions.

Don Wedel, Ojibwe, shows participants the results of experimenting with a decordication machine which takes the stalks of hemp and begins to split and comb the hemp fibers into rope and insulation type fibers.

Ask about where those genetics are coming from. Ask about the soil. We went to a regenerative Earth summit this year and it was really cool to see the clothing industry really saying that the conscious consumers are out there. And they want to know. Where are you getting that shirt from? You know, which is why, I dress in Patagonia clothing cause I believe in their mission. So, that is something that in Indian country, we can definitely do. To set those standards by innovation. The accountability up and down stream with co-creators.

Okay, you come to me and you offer me a million dollars to grow on my farm. Great! I’m gonna make you some money but what are you doing with that money? And so for me, I have been offered different opportunities to collaborate with companies, in the cannabis space, and when I ask them point blank, what are your eco-friendly, eco-conscious business practices? We don’t have any... Well then come back to me. I’ll connect you to my people, when you have those practices. Or at least your making that good faith effort.

So, again accountability and communication. You know, it’s not like, bring me some seeds. Peace! Thanks for my money and we’ll see you later. We want to make sure there is communication and I would assume that most of you are going to want to do the same thing.

You don’t want to put seed in the ground and wonder what the heck is gonna happen to that.

And then with that communication, here comes that community.

This last year was really neat to see some of the local farmers come together on these two acre plots. Because they had no choice. We tried to tell them to plan and plan. But a rain came in when we were harvesting, and their back up plan was to hang the hemp on a fence. Well, you can’t do that in the rain. They filled up their barns and they called about five other different farmers, so we were scrambling and cutting down plants and giving them out to five different storage places, on all these different farms about 20 miles away.

And the farmer looked at him and says I think I’ll be investing in a big barn next year because I’m looking at 200 thousand dollars worth of product here, 20 miles from my home. I don’t really feel too safe with this.

So, you know, again the community piece and every person that he utilized to hang his crop up in, they all now grow hemp. That community just organically started to grow. And they were coming in and helping harvest too. So be mindful of regulations again, that’s what we’ve been talking about, the local incentives. You want to grow and create incentives for doing good business practices.

“You have those opportunities with the tribes and everybody else to set those standards.

I remember coming back from Standing Rock and the trauma of just seeing what was going on and sitting at the table with a guy from the oil industry, kinda makes me twinge now.

But listening to them talk and wanting to bring his money in and I just say to him, I don’t want to work with anybody in the oil industry. I don’t. You guys have your money and we’ll make it just fine. And so, for me, if your mindset is grow a business or garden regardless of the intent of protecting the water, I don’t think you can really go too long. And so, I’m seeing people that want to pump in tons of water and when we do our contracts, it pretty clearly even states that, utilize the water in respect to mother nature. So, when we’re going out and assessing places, we want to keep the natural habitat and everything as much as possible. And again, that’s something that we stand by and not everybody does in the industry.

Genetics. I know we got some people that that’s not my area of expertise. But this is just something, Shane Davis, my partner from the farm, these are just some of the photos from his farms this last year.

Hemp Flower

Winona: Those are all, those are CBD hemp varieties right?

Dionne:    Correct. Yes. So again, who are your trusted seed sources? Some of those stories that happened in Colorado, in the western slopes, they had a lot of what we call hot plants that had to be destroyed. Again, because farmers who are losing their farms are looking for another option. So what do they do? They go find cheap seeds! And what do they do? So they grew these cheap seeds and don’t have anybody communicating with them. They’re just, here you go bud! And then the next thing you know, I’m getting calls and people are like, Dionne, all of our crops are having to be destroyed because people bought hot seeds.

And it just all cross pollinated. So there is a lot of crops in Colorado and that is why we want you to go back to creating community, creating your infrastructure and communicating. Because if Winona’s growing for fiber, or whatever she’s growing, and Brad’s over here growing and at least right now, we’re finding at least within five and half miles, some other’s might have more numbers, but that, that cross-pollination is taking place.

So, that’s why it’s so important that we have some contracts that we could work with somebody but if you don’t know who’s around you and we provide seeds and genetics, it can totally get destroyed because Johnny over here, spent ten thousand dollars for seeds and it was a cheap deal and now he screwed you up.

So, that’s something that I can’t stress that enough, do your research with the seed source like they said cause there are people out there that are just selling whatever.

Clones versus seeds. Again, I’m not the expert but I do know that there are some difference on whether you start your crop with clones versus starting with seeds. And in Colorado, clones were a big industry and it still is right now cause people are expanding. Maybe you have some space and you decide you want to grow a bunch of clones and then you’re selling them to Winona to start her farm. Something like that.

Just reiterating that every decision that we make holistically regenerates or degenerates people, planet or purpose. So know your soil. Again, we’re here with a bunch of farmers, like Winona. Know your soil. Know your PH.

I do a lot of traveling in Nebraska cause that’s where I’m originally from, but all those GM crops, GMO crops that are out there, those farmers, they’re calling. They want to get in quick but the thing is, that right now, we’re not going to provide thousands of acres of seeds, because you don’t even know if it’s going to grow or how it’ going to adapt.

So, starting now with an acre or two acres, at least with ours, others may have other philosophies, is the way that we would like to work. So we can see how the seeds adapt to your environment and your soil. Again, know your soil and when you’re going into these conversations if they are not asking you about your soil when you’re buying seed or anything, that should be a red flag.

Then, who’s buying your crop? In the last five years, there’s a lot of people doing this a lot longer than me, but from what I’ve seen in the industry is people were just growing, just to see if they could grow it.

So right now there are a lot of farmers that still don’t even have their product processed. Because all the processing machines and places are backed up. One of them I’m thinking of, thought he was going to have his product in December, and he’s still probably about a month or so out from getting it processed. So again those are things just to continue to think about as you guys are building your infrastructure.

Who’s upstream? When we’re making medicine. We have to be very very particular about what’s going on or if there’s cattle upstream.

People selling CBD at gas stations for ten dollars, you know it’s scary, so if it’s not clearly marked on that label, which is another big thing that these guys have probably talked about, I don’t care if it’s a deal, I wouldn’t buy it, like that. So, know your plants that are native to your land and utilize your water with respect.

And have legal representation. I know these lawyers, they don’t like lawyer talk, okay I get it. But the thing is, I can tell you that when I first met Alex and Debra and talking to them, and as we were talking about collaborating, I don’t have that knowledge and I didn’t and I did it in good faith. And I couldn’t tell them hey! Lets write up this contract and lets do this because I don’t know tribal law.

I really do appreciate what they can do. And if and again, that’s their cup of tea. That’s what they’re experts in and so they’ve been very helpful where I can feel comfortable and confident in going in and helping however I can.

Okay so this was, this is just two acres. We hung them (bundles of hemp plants) down on these little pullies, and they could slide down and you could hang the plants. By the time it was done, you had rows of them. You leave enough space in there for the air to get in there and dry them out. This was that two acre farm that I was telling you about. You can get really creative with the way that it dries.

We had some of our youth out there just learning about the plant. And it’s just, we love their curiosity. They’ll guide us and I love when I, my little nephew sees a picture of corn and hemp and I got hemp socks and he’s only two and he’s like, Hemp! And so, seeing the youth out here, teaching, that’s part of what we do with the farms that we work with. They’re all very family oriented. And that’s what we want to continue to do.

And as Winona was saying that, you know, all these different things, regenerative, local, traditional, organic, family owned, net zero, agriculture. These are just buzz words of all the things that can really come from hemp. Again, it’s with hemp we talked about the rotational crop, the soil. I love learning that too. I want to know.

I love watermelons so I told my partner Shea, Hey! Can watermelons grow next to hemp, cause I love that stuff. So find out what works well together. And ultimately the goal is the new economy.

The thing that I really liked about harvesting this year was to really see this young gal, who was originally drooling before she started a product. And you’ll probably hear a million stories like this but the family, they chose to grow the genetics that my partner had offered because the medicine was working for their daughter.

By the time we went out there to harvest this year, she was backing up the 4 wheel better than me. And she was loading stuff up and so it was really neat and this year she’s gonna grow a row of hemp herself. And that family, I share this number, not everybody can make it. The numbers are anywhere from 50 to 400 thousand and this family for two acres made about 400 thousand. And so, the numbers, you know, there not always gonna be there and it depends on who’s buying that end product.

So, again that’s why you got to do your homework and we’ll continue to work with them and so their family is going to grow, the kids are going to grow one acre, just like the 4H type deal. And whatever they make off that, they’ll get to keep. And so, we’re also working with the FFA in that town. The Future Farmers of America. Pretty cool and exciting to see that.

So, anyways I think that what kind of world are we leaving for our future generations. I think that that’s the big key and we have an opportunity here with hemp to just continue to reiterate it. Co-create, collaborate with integrity and at our own pace.

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