Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Department or School/College

W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Laurie Yung

Commitee Members

Neva Hassanein, Brian Chaffin


hemp, Native American


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


In this thesis, I take an in-depth look at Native American hemp production through the lens of three hemp projects. My research sits within the history of colonization and dispossession. I look at two tribal hemp projects and one individual Native American hemp farm and describe how each project reaches for tribal sovereignty through hemp production. I look at how hemp fits into tribal worldviews, cultures, and the relationship tribal farmers have with hemp. Focusing on key elements of relationship, like respect, reciprocity, and responsibility, I examine how hemp production can be incorporated into Indigenous communities. Beyond relationships with the plant, I discuss the importance of relationships with Native agencies, tribal government, and tribal allies and how they play a key role in the success of hemp production. I bring to light the medicinal and environmental benefits of hemp and show how hemp can contribute to healing mind, body, spirit, and the environment. I explore the economics of hemp production and how hemp can lead to economic security and economic development in tribal communities, creating a “new economy” that is rooted in sustainable practices. This new economy opens a path that is in keeping with tribal worldviews and moves away from a fossil fuel-based economy that stems from a colonial understanding of dominion over the plant world. In striving for a ‘new economy,’ tribes are trying to shift the basis of economy from fossil fuels to a carbohydrate-based economy. To better understand hemp production, I examine the federal, state, and tribal governance of hemp and the challenges that tribes face. I look at the obstacles from a policy perspective and the policy issues related specifically to tribes like reporting to another sovereign, the changing of the guards in tribal government, and the important role tribal governments play in the success of hemp production. Through in-depth interviews, participants describe how hemp might fit into Native American culture, in alignment with a tribal worldview. While hemp production is not the answer in totality, it can boost economic development, improve economic conditions, and give tribes another mechanism for self-governance.



© Copyright 2020 Cynthia Marie Steckdaub Coleman