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Yazzie receives grant to conduct food outreach in Native American communities

Azelya Yazzie, a member of the Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Leadership Summit class of 2016, was recently awarded a $1,000 Pollination Project grant to conduct educational outreach in Native American communities in her home region of Southern California.

Yazzie has been involved with numerous service and leadership efforts in the past year, and was an Earth Team volunteer for the Natural Resource Conservation Service. The grant is the most recent of Yazzie’s outreach efforts aimed at revitalizing traditional food-ways and improving the health of Native American communities.

She describes the grant award and her other service efforts as the result of the simple philosophy she’s adopted: the philosophy of “yes.”

“My best piece of advice to youth interested in pursuing their passions or growing as leaders is to just say ‘yes’,” Yazzie said. “You never know what one opportunity will lead to just because you weren’t afraid of taking the chance and you said ‘yes’. It’s amazing how many people you will meet that want to help you, by just taking the first step.”

Azelya Yazzie speaking at the 2016 National Resource Conservation and Development Councils Convention on Native youth in food and agriculture initiatives.

Yazzie learned the value of her philosophy first hand in December 2015 when she took her own first step by attending the Intertribal Agriculture Council’s Indian Agriculture Youth Alliance in Las Vegas. Yazzie said the meeting seemed like an excellent venue to learn about connections between two subjects she’d long been interested in: growing food and exploring her indigenous ancestry.

“It was the first agriculture opportunity I stumbled upon that was for Native Youth,” she said.

The IAC’s annual three-day meeting is designed to educate, empower and create connections among the ever-growing network of Native American farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists working throughout Indian Country.

Alliance youth participate in a modified version of the conference, providing multiple activities and opportunities for the younger members to network and learn from the organization’s more experienced professionals. One activity involved youth members receiving mentorship on how to fill out a Farm Service Agency Youth Loan application. It was during this activity that Yazzie would say “yes” once again, and meet her current mentor, IAC Technical Assistance Specialist Keir Johnson.

 

From left, Mark Van Horn, Director of UC Davis Student Farm, Tom Tomich, Director of UC Davis Agriculture Sustainability Institute, Azelya Yazzie and Keir Johnson-Reyes. Taken on a tour arranged for Yazzie of the UC Davis Ecological Garden.

 

A citizen of the Osage Nation, Johnson was hired by the IAC in June 2014 to provide technical assistance to farmers and ranchers in the IAC’s pacific region. Johnson said he was going around checking in on youth from his region in attendance, when by chance, he sat down to talk with Yazzie and her father.

“She was really interested in expanding her experience,” Johnson said. “She seemed very engaged with getting more involved in agriculture and her dad was completely on board, so we exchanged information and began reaching out every one or two weeks.”

Yazzie said Johnson has been the source of numerous opportunities that have come her way in the past year.

Soon after meeting, they formulated the idea for Yazzie to develop a project as an Earth Team volunteer for the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Yazzie said the experience has expanded her understanding of sustainability and helped her grow as a leader.

“Working with the NRCS helped me grow as a leader by allowing me to step out of my comfort zone and gain responsibility, by asking questions to farmers I’ve just met,” Yazzie said. “I would learn about fuel ladders, different bugs that are killing the trees, how to stop erosion … I would also get the opportunity to work with tribal liaisons to help the local tribes conserve their traditional plants used for ceremonies and tools.”

Azelya Yazzie and Keir Johnson on a tour of the UC Davis Baggins End Student Living Community.

When Yazzie graduated high school in May 2016, Johnson gave her a gift pouch of traditional seeds, including some with personal significance, Osage red corn, a variety of Osage corn with vibrant colored kernels of deep red and purple. The variety, once on the brink of extinction, has begun to make a comeback through the work of individual seed savers and concerted efforts by the Osage Nation.

Yazzie ­– now a student at San Diego Community College studying sustainable agriculture – said the seeds Johnson gave her will be used in her future project focused on helping Native American youth learn how to grow and cook their own traditional foods.

In addition to Yazzie’s collegiate studies, her work with NRCS, and her traditional food project, she will be traveling with Johnson and other IAC members to Hawaii in late March to do outreach education on native food systems and youth involvement at local schools, and give a presentation at the state’s FFA convention.

“She continues to push herself to get into new experiences, developing presentations and speaking before new people,” Johnson said. “I’m very impressed by her, because I see her putting herself into these new areas and new avenues, and she’s getting so much out of it.”

Invigorated by her whirlwind of service projects, Yazzie said she’s extremely excited for the opportunity to develop professionally, and gain more experience as a young leader in food and agriculture.

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Hipp Receives President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Service

Hipp Receives President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Service

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Janie Simms Hipp, director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative in the University of Arkansas School of Law recently received   the President’s Volunteer Service Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award, from the Corporation for National and Community Service, recognized her lifelong dedication to serving the Chickasaw Nation and advancing the nutritional and educational needs of indigenous people across the continent.

Janie Hipp

The Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest honor conferred by the corporation and is reserved for individuals who contribute more than 4,000 hours of service in their lifetime. The prize, awarded and signed by President Barack Obama in the fall of 2016, was presented to Hipp in January by corporation officials.

“Janie has dedicated her life to expanding opportunities for Native Americans around the country,” said Max Finberg, former director of AmeriCorps VISTA. “She has lived a life of service to others and is extremely deserving of the Presidential Lifetime Volunteer Service Award. Inspired by those who have come before her, she continues to invest in the next generation of Native leaders through the Tribal Youth Summit and otherwise. I am grateful for the chance I had to work with her to improve life throughout Indian Country. She is a shining example of a servant leader and someone deserving of this recognition.”

“It’s hard to imagine anyone who has done more to empower the next generation of leaders in tribal agriculture than Janie,” said Stacy Leeds, dean of the School of Law. “Her dedication and tireless commitment to mentoring and developing others is inspiring.”

Hipp has helped expand efforts to increase nutritional access for tribal communities and protect and promote traditional agricultural knowledge. She is an attorney and graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Law master of laws program in Agricultural and Food Law, the nation’s first advanced law degree program in agricultural and food law.

She is the founder of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of Tribal Relations in the Office of the Secretary, and she served two terms on the agency’s Secretary’s Advisory Committee for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. She also served on two delegations to the United Nations in the areas of women’s issues and Indigenous issues.

About the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative: The initiative enhances health and wellness in tribal communities by advancing healthy food systems, diversified economic development and cultural food traditions in Indian Country. The initiative empowers tribal governments, farmers, ranchers and food businesses by providing strategic planning and technical assistance; by creating new academic and professional education programs in food systems and agriculture; and by increasing student enrollment in land grant universities in food and agricultural related disciplines.

About University of Arkansas School of Law: The University of Arkansas School of Law prepares students for success through a challenging curriculum taught by nationally recognized faculty, unique service opportunities and a close-knit community that puts students first. With alumni in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, two territories and 20 countries, it has been ranked among the top 10 “Best Values in Legal Education” by the National Jurist magazine for four consecutive years and is among the top 46 public law schools, according to U.S. News and World Report.

About the Corporation for National and Community Service/President’s Volunteer Service Award: In 2003, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation launched the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2003 to recognize the importance of volunteers to America’s strength and national identity and to honor the deeply invested volunteers whose service is multiplied through the inspiration they give others. Today, the program continues as an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service, managed in partnership with Points of Light, an international nonprofit with the mission to inspire, equip, and mobilize people to take action to change the world.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

CONTACTS

Janie Simms Hipp, director (Chickasaw)

Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative

479-575-4699, jhipp@uark.edu

Bryan Pollard, director of tribal relations (Cherokee)

Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative

479-575-3765, bpollard@uark.edu

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Second Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition announced

Second Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition announced

Save the date

Second Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition
September 18-20, 2017
Mystic Lake Casino Hotel

The annual conference brings together tribal officials, researchers, practitioners, and others to discuss the current state of Indigenous and academic scientific knowledge about Native nutrition and food science, and identifies new areas of work.

An informal evening reception will be held on September 17 for those attending the conference.

Registration will open in March 2017. Sign up for the newsletter or go to the website to receive updates about the conference.

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Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative Announced as New VISTA Hub

Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative Announced as New VISTA Hub

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Representatives from the Corporation for National and Community Service met with staff of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law on Jan. 30-31 to discuss the implementation of a new national volunteer partnership program with VISTA, the Volunteers in Service to America.

Initiative director Janie Simms Hipp and members of her staff met with Opal Sims and Derek Cromwell, from the service’s Arkansas office, and Michael Laverty, the area manager of the service’s southwest cluster office of field liaison. They discussed how the organizations will work together to recruit, train and deploy a cadre of “Native Food Sovereignty Fellows” to selected locations across Indian Country.

The 21 initial fellows will be AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers working in low-resource Native American communities to establish and stabilize food sovereignty efforts, food systems, and tribal economies to build economic opportunities in food and agriculture.

Cromwell hopes that this partnership will improve the lives of Native American people.

“That’s what we are here for,” Cromwell said. “If we can change the life of one person, that’s a success. That’s important.”

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota announced earlier in the month that it will provide a $200,000 gift to the partnership to fund the cost-share for VISTA members’ living allowance in the first year of the program. The gift is part of the community’s Seeds of Native Health campaign to improve Native American nutrition and food access. This will be the first time a tribe has provided funding to deploy VISTA members nationally.

“There is a nutritional health crisis in Indian Country, and its leading cause is the lack of access to healthy, affordable food,” said Community Chairman Charles R. Vig. “This partnership offers a new model to address food access problems at the tribal level. Our tribe is excited to support the work of AmeriCorps VISTA and the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative to recruit and place teams of volunteers with the training, creativity, commitment, and strong work ethic needed to assist tribes achieve better food access.”

AmeriCorps VISTA, operated by the Corporation for National and Community Service, is the national service program established specifically to help alleviate poverty. Founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 as the domestic version of the Peace Corps, VISTA taps the skills, talents and passion of more than 8,000 Americans annually to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations or local government agencies to carry out programs that tackle poverty.

“We are so proud to support this culturally competent and innovative approach to addressing specific tribal community needs, by harnessing the organizational support available through our partner, the University of Arkansas’ Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative and the generosity of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community,” said former AmeriCorps VISTA Director Max Finberg.

The initiative will recruit, train, deploy and supervise the work of these VISTA volunteers. Created by School of Law Dean Stacy Leeds and directed by Hipp, the initiative focuses on multidisciplinary research, service and education in support of native communities. Its work encompasses tribal food code development, feeding program analysis, national food systems scans and other food sovereignty related projects. The initiative also hosts the Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Leadership Summit, a 10-day educational event for at least 100 native youth to build their skills in food systems development and learn how food and agriculture policy impacts their tribal communities.

“Tribes across the country are struggling to access healthy food and develop sustainable food systems,” Leeds said. “The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has been a longstanding leader in support of tribal sovereignty and now is the national leader working on improving native nutritional health. Their support of AmeriCorps VISTA is critical to tackling hunger and food insecurity and building strong native food systems in Indian Country. This new effort will take these commitments one step further and support the deployment of VISTA recruits within tribal communities to gain on-the-ground experience and assist tribes in their work toward healthy food access.” 

For more information about this or other initiative programs, please contact director Janie Simms Hipp at jhipp@uark.edu.

About the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative: The initiative enhances health and wellness in tribal communities by advancing healthy food systems, diversified economic development and cultural food traditions in Indian Country. The initiative empowers tribal governments, farmers, ranchers and food businesses by providing strategic planning and technical assistance; by creating new academic and professional education programs in food systems and agriculture; and by increasing student enrollment in land grant universities in food and agricultural related disciplines.

About AmeriCorps VISTA: AmeriCorps VISTA is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and other programs, and leads volunteer initiatives for the nation. Since 1965, AmeriCorps VISTA has been at the forefront of helping communities across America alleviate poverty. Each year, more than 8,000 AmeriCorps VISTA members serve in 3,000 locations across the country, supporting programs that reduce homelessness, improve health services, expand job opportunities, develop financial assets, grow access to affordable food and housing, and expand access to technology for those living in rural and urban areas of poverty across America.

About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community: The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is a federally recognized, sovereign Indian tribe located southwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Making its top priority to be a good neighbor, the SMSC is one of the top 10 philanthropists in Minnesota and donates more to charity than any other Indian tribe in America. It also focuses on being a strong community partner and a leader in protecting and restoring natural resources.

About Seeds of Native Health: Seeds of Native Health is the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s philanthropic campaign to improve Native American nutrition. Launched in 2015, the $5 million campaign has provided grants to local communities and funded research, education, and capacity-building efforts. Partners include the American Heart Association, First Nations Development Institute, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the Notah Begay III Foundation, the University of Arkansas School of Law’s Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, and the University of Minnesota. More information is available at SeedsofNativeHealth.org.

About University of Arkansas School of Law: The University of Arkansas School of Law prepares students for success through a challenging curriculum taught by nationally recognized faculty, unique service opportunities and a close-knit community that puts students first. With alumni in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, two territories and 20 countries, it has been ranked among the top 10 “Values in Legal Education” by the National Jurist magazine for four consecutive years and is among the top 46 public law schools, according to U.S. News and World Report.

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