Creating a Navajo Standard for the Hemp Fiber Industry’ blog post is presented by the Anishinaabe Agriculture Institute, a non-profit dedicated to developing tribal hemp initiatives in the state of Minnesota. This is a three-part series of their current hemp research. To learn more about their efforts for Tribes, please visit anishinaabeagriculture.org/tribal-hemp-initiative

 

 

We, Anishinaabe Agriculture Institute, are currently moving forward on our vision to nurture a tribal hemp economy in North America, as a regionally replicable model of organic, innovative, and equitable Indigenous economic development. Anishinaabe Agriculture Institute in partnership with Winona’s Hemp & Heritage Farm will create a regional strategy for the restoration of a fiber hemp economy, focused on northern plains and great lakes Indigenous nations, with an emphasis on repairing our relationship to our earth and each other.

We are focusing on the development of a vertically integrated, community wealth building enterprise model that partners with hemp from seed to garment creating jobs and economic development for tribal communities and produces value-added enterprises including fiber, paper, hemp building materials, and foods.

Turquoise Indigo Fiber, Diné (Navajo) Churro Sheep Wool Hemp Blend 2021

Plant-based Fiber

Ira Vandever & Turquoise Indigo Fibers (TIF) were able to secure a large number of retted stalks from Winona’sHemp and Heritage Farm and AAI.  The partnership was made in heaven. “Who else, but the Navajo, to turn this plant into beautiful fiber,” stated Winona LaDuke.

Traditional Techniques

TIF processed the fiber by degumming it through a water process, which separated the fiber from the stalks. The fiber was then carded in spun using traditional Diné tools. The fiber was processed alone and also blended with Churro wool to create different textures.

Fiber Blending

2020 saw a huge decline in wool sales for the Navajo Nation. Due to the Corona Virus threat, many buyers hesitated in purchasing Navajo wool. We were able to use the grant to purchase wool with local suppliers. They were able to sell to us and we were able to process the wool and experiment with blending the hemp fiber with it. We spent the entire year testing the fiber and how it took to dyes. In the end, we were rewarded with a piece that sold after our hemp conference in March 2021. All the proceeds went back into the artists and the future production of more hemp.

Summer in Navajo country always supplies an abundance of wildflowers and plants. Almost anything can be used for dyeing: weeds, wildflowers, garden plants, mushrooms, bryophytes, and lichens. Hemp takes to dyes quite differently. It was a process that required multiple attempts and lots of patience.

Findings

We found that the hemp plant can be grown, processed, packaged, and designed into valuable products using the traditional Diné way of producing fiber. We also found that the left-over stalks can be used for building material or food or biomass. We will be experimenting with 3-D Printer filament. The hemp can also be used to extract toxins from the ground. hemp is a great
accumulator for toxins. We hope to continue work on gene types that may accumulate, but also neutralize the toxins.

We see a strong future for this plant will spend the next year working on a campaign using the Diné rug as an example of the uses of hemp as a textile. But, the most important step we need to take is to create a Fiber Mill to help store and produce different types of fiber in the Navajo Nation.

Fiber Mill

Our next step is to create a Fiber Mill in the Four Corners Area to give us a central storage and processing space, which can also serve as a retail hub and training center.

 

Stay tuned for the second installment, Value-Added Technologies by Anishinaabe Agriculture Institute