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We’re celebrating Native Heritage Month 2023 by highlighting Indigenous activists, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the cannabis industry in the U.S. and Canada. This list is by no means exhaustive, but is a great starting point if you’re interested in learning more about Native leaders in the cannabis space.
Bourgeois is an Algonquin First Nations from Pikwakanagan, ON. She sits on the board of directors at EduCanNation — a nonprofit that strives to provide the highest standard of responsible cannabis education across Canada and works in the Sovereign Indigenous Cannabis Industry. Her work centers around the intersections of visual art, dance, cannabis advocacy, and sovereignty. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Bullock is a Shinnecock Tribal Member and managing director at Little Beach Harvest, where she leads the organization’s business activities and partnerships. Little Beach Harvest is a Shinnecock Nation tribal business entity based in New York and a wholly owned and vertically integrated cannabis operation. She is a historian and activist who advocates for social equity and Indigenous and Native inclusion in the mainstream cannabis industry. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter (X).
Deerinwater is a bisexual, Two-Spirit, multiply-disabled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and an award-winning journalist and organizer. Deerinwater founded Crushing Colonialism, an online publication that “tells the stories of Indigenous people to create a world that values and honors Indigeneity.” In 2022, Deerinwater spoke at a panel titled “Protecting Mother Earth: How Tribes Can Lead the 17 UN Sustainability Initiatives in Cannabis Development,” the Indigenous Cannabis Policy Summit.” Connect with them on LinkedIn or follow on Twitter (X).
King is Afro-Indigenous and a descendant of the Menominee and Oneida Nations of Wisconsin. She is the co-founder and president of Urban Indigenous Collective, an Indigenous-led public health NGO supporting access to culturally tailored health and wellness services for self-identified Indigenous peoples. Her work centers on mental health, women’s rights, drug policy reform, biocultural conservation, and access and benefit sharing for Indigenous peoples. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.
LaDuke owns and operates Winona’s Hemp and Heritage Farm based in Minnesota. She also founded the nonprofit Anishinaabe Agricultural Institute, which is engaged in the rematriation of seeds. In her own words, she explains how her activism and work are connected by saying, “My dream of establishing Winona’s Hemp and Heritage Farm was inspired by the decades I’ve spent fighting to protect Anishinaabe culture, seeds, lands, and waters.” Follow her on Twitter (X) or Instagram.
Rita Montoya, J.D.
Montoya utilizes her personal and professional experience to inform her advocacy on behalf of medical cannabis patients and advocates. She was introduced to the medical, science-based benefits of plants as a student at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, California. Montoya also founded the Cannabis Patient Advocacy Association (CPAA) to develop strategies and solutions to challenges in the cannabis patient marketplace through actionable items. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter (X).
Mary Jane Oatman
Oatman comes from the Nimiipuu people of Idaho’s Nez Perce Tribe of the Columbia River Plateau. She is the founder of the Indigenous Cannabis Coalition and THC Magazine. She is also the executive director of the Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association. Her work centers on changing the public perception of cannabis and Indigenous people through education, advocacy, and sharing the stories of Indigenous people. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter (X).
Jyl Wheaton Abraham
Wheaton is a member of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, a wife, a mom, and an anthropologist/archaeologist-turned-hemp farmer. She and her husband own Hempbest, a hemp farm and CBD company in Oregon that specializes in growing hemp following regenerative farming practices. She is interested in cannabis as an entry point into larger discussions about culture, counterculture, power relations, decolonization, and more. Follow her on Instagram.
Renner is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Northern California. She owns Native Humboldt Farms and is fully integrated into the California recreational market. She’s been a cannabis advocate for 25 years and uses natural and indigenous farming practices to grow craft cannabis. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter (X).
Tarbell is the general manager at Seven Leaf — the first 100% Indigenous-owned and operated cannabis producer to receive Health Canada approval. She hires predominantly from within the Akwesasne community. She hopes that women from her community and across Canada are inspired to work in the cannabis industry and be a part of its growth. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
These are only a handful of the Indigenous leaders making moves in the cannabis industry. At Leafwell, we believe that education and access to medical cannabis matter. We prioritize staying current and sharing with our audience people in the cannabis industry doing important work around cannabis education and advocacy.
Know someone who you think should be included on this list? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.