For now, it’s only a gaping hole in the ground, 100-by-100 feet, surrounded by farm machinery and bales of hemp on a sandy patch of earth on the Lower Sioux Indian Reservation in southwestern Minnesota.
But when construction is complete next April, the Lower Sioux — also known as part of the Mdewakanton Band of Dakota — will have a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing campus that will allow them to pioneer a green experiment, the first of its kind in the United States.
They will have an integrated vertical operation to grow hemp, process it into insulation called hempcrete, and then build healthy homes with it. Right now, no one in the U.S. does all three.
Once the tribe makes this low-carbon material, they can begin to address a severe shortage of housing and jobs. Recapturing a slice of sovereignty would be a win for the Lower Sioux, once a largely woodland people who were subjected to some of the worst brutality against the Indigenous nations in North America.
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