Tim Houseberg’s ambitions for hemp are nearly as expansive as the opportunities for the plant itself.
After a nearly 30-year career with the Cherokee Nation in environmental protection and financial services, Houseberg has spent the past three years building a hemp-related non-profit and genetics company, conducting multiple studies on the plant, and forming numerous partnerships across the hemp sector. It’s all been to support his ultimate vision of bringing tribal sovereignty to his community and others.
But Houseberg’s latest hemp initiative may be his most ambitious yet.
In September, Houseberg’s newest venture, Native American Cannabis Alliance (NACA), announced it had signed three memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Indigenous farmers from tribes including Mohawk Nation, and Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Nations.
NACA is a joint venture between Houseberg and Everscore Inc., a startup direct-to-consumer marketplace for THC and CBD products.
Houseberg and Sampson say the MOUs will open up access to 500,000 acres of tribal farmland for not just growing cannabis and hemp, but also creating manufacturing campuses to process the crops grown on that land.
It’s a partnership that Houseberg envisions bringing workforce development, agricultural advancement and economic opportunity to some areas of the U.S. that need it the most.
“The opportunities for tribes cultivating [hemp and cannabis] have been kind of hit and miss,” Houseberg says. “They are slow to take advantage of it. …. So, this is a great opportunity for us. Working with NACA and Everscore is going to change the way we have opportunity going forward.”
Help on Tribal Land
Houseberg has been working to bring cannabis and hemp to tribal communities for several years, but it’s an effort that stemmed first from health and education initiatives.
Houseberg is from Stilwell, a small town on the eastern border of Oklahoma where Native Americans make up more than half the population.
Though small, Stilwell has a compelling history. It was one of five places where Cherokees dispersed following their long trek along the Trail of Tears in the 1800s, according to the National Park Service. In the mid-1900s, it was designated the “Strawberry Capital of the World” and drew nearly 20 times its population in tourists for an annual festival.
But in 2018, the city gained a darker reputation when the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) revealed Stilwell residents had the lowest life expectancy in the country at just 56.3 years old compared to the national average of 78.8.
Cherokee Nation officials later noted discrepancies with that report, and the NCHS eventually amended the life expectancy to approximately 74 years, as reported by the Tulsa World.
Still, at the time, the number jumped out at Houseberg. He also knew of the other challenges in Stilwell, where the median household income is just half that of the state of Oklahoma; 43% of children live in poverty; and nearly 27% live without health insurance.
The newly retired Houseberg, along with his parents, set out in 2018 to utilize their backgrounds in education, environmental science and Native American law to form Native Health Matters (NHM), a 501(c)(3) organization that began as an initiative to promote