Mackenize Martinez, a member of the Native Youth in Food and Agriculture Leadership Summit class of 2016, was recently awarded first place and a $500 check in the Intertribal Agriculture Council Indian Ag Youth Alliance Essay Contest.
Martinez’s essay addressed the need for intertribal agriculture extension services in Indian Country and described her vision for the future of Native American agriculture.
“I feel that food sovereignty is important in Indian country because it is such a necessity in everyday life,” Martinez said. “All Native American tribes have some sort of ancestral connection to agriculture.”
When Martinez talks about food sovereignty, she’s referring to the right of Native American peoples to create and define their own food systems through environmentally sustainable and culturally relevant methods and processes.
The goal of organizations like the Intertribal Agriculture Council that recognized Martinez’s essay, is to strengthen the food sovereignty of Indian Country by providing extension services and technical assistance to Native American communities and reservations across the United States.
“Many native communities are very rural and isolated,” Martinez said. “For them to be able to feed themselves would drastically help the economy of their communities and essentially improve the quality of life on reservations.”
Martinez understands rural isolation and its connection to agriculture. The high school senior is based out of Zwole, La., with a population of 1,984 according to a 2013 census, where she has been involved in showing livestock and gardening since her early youth.
“I showed my first hen in fourth grade, but I did it on and off, it wasn’t every year, and I showed pigs when I was in the eighth grade,” Martinez said. “My family’s always had our garden … it definitely took everybody to keep it going.”
Throughout her high school years, she said she has been heavily involved with Future Farmer’s of America, competing in extemporaneous speaking, and agronomy and floriculture events.
She also conducts Broiler chicken projects, where she raises 15 to 20 chicks for livestock presentation and meat production. “We’re trying to grow these birds from a six ounce chick to a ten pound bird in seven weeks.”
Martinez is a proud citizen of the Choctaw-Apache Tribe of Ebarb, La., whose headquarters are in Zwole. The tribe was recognized by the state of Louisiana in 1978, and has been working toward federal recognition ever since.
In her essay, Martinez discussed how state recognized tribes could play a greater role in improving agriculture throughout Indian Country.
“I feel that all of Indian Country would benefit from state recognized tribes playing a bigger role in food sovereignty because there are so many successful agricultural producers who aren’t members of federally recognized tribes,” Martinez stated in an email. “State recognized tribes are such a prolific agricultural force on their own and have to be very independent and self sufficient.
“State recognized tribes have so much potential to really advance the movement for food sovereignty in Indian country.”
Martinez’s essay was one of three winning papers in the Indian Ag Youth Alliance essay contest and conference, which brought together 56 Native American youth for a modified version of the IAC’s 30th annual membership meeting in Las Vegas, Dec. 4-8, 2016.
The annual meeting is designed to educate, empower, and strengthen the ever-growing network of Native American farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists working throughout Indian Country.
To enter the essay contest and be accepted to the conference, youth were asked to read the 1987 Final Findings and Recommendations of the National Indian Agricultural Working Group, a report that laid the foundations for establishing the Intertribal Agriculture Council.
Martinez said she was shocked when she found out that her paper was one of the winning essays.
“When I found out I’d actually won the essay contest I was like ‘woah,’ this is cool.“ Martinez said. “And then I actually got to Vegas and saw how big of a deal they made out of it, and how much of an honor it was to actually win it, and that really opened up some more doors too, so it was a really great experience.”
After giving her speech, Martinez was offered a scholarship to attend the University of Arkansas. She said after considering her options, the young agriculturalist has decided to attend McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La., where she’ll pursue a major in agricultural business.
“I’d really like to study it and relate it to how it affects my own community,” Martinez said. “And learning some management skills is something everyone needs.
“I think when you talk about agriculture and its importance, you have to know that it affects everybody everyday, so it’s not something to be taken lightly.”
The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative Director Janie Simms Hipp received the 2017 Tim Wapato Public Advocate of the Year Award at the annual National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development conference.
The award was presented on March 14 at the 31st National Reservation Summit American Indian Enterprise Luncheon held at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
She was selected for the award based on her leadership and exemplary commitment to advancing economic progress in the American Indian business community.
The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (IFAI) was selected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide Native American Outreach, Training, Technical Assistance and Education to ensure compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The FSMA was passed by Congress in 2010 and the final requirements implementing the FSMA were put into place in late 2015.
The IFAI has developed a series of food safety webinars designed to help Native American farmers, ranchers and food producers to begin to understand the importance of food safety and what is necessary to reach compliance under the FSMA. Attendees will learn about produce safety, food-borne pathogens, worker health, wildlife, land use, post-harvest handling, and legal issues associated with food safety in Indian Country. This series is part of a two-fold effort to reach producers and food businesses. In the coming days, IFAI will launch a series of two-day in-person events in regional locations. Stay tuned for the announcement of these hands-on trainings.
Please use the links below to register for the webinars in this series. All presentations are free and open to the public, and each session will include time for attendee questions and discussion of issues with the presenter. Many of the presentations use Produce Safety Alliance approved materials and serve as an important preparation for attending in-person events.
Tuesday, Feb 28, 2 – 4 pm Central
Introduction to Produce Safety (Part 1)
Thursday, March 9, 2 – 4 pm Central
Introduction to Produce Safety (Part 2)
Thursday, April 13, 2 – 4 pm Central
Microbiology Basics (Part 1)
Thursday, May 11, 2 – 4 pm Central
Microbiology Basics (Part 2)
Thursday, June 8, 2 – 4 pm Central
The Intersection of Business Planning, Risk Management and Food Safety
Thursday, July 6, 2 – 4 pm Central
Worker Health, Hygiene and Training
Thursday, August 10, 2 – 4 pm Central
Wildlife, Domesticated Animals and Land Use
Thursday, Sep 7, 2 – 4 pm Central
Postharvest Handling (Part 1)
Thursday, Oct 12, 2 – 4 pm Central
Postharvest Handling (Part 2)
Thursday, Nov 9, 2 – 4 pm Central
Legal Issues in Tribal Food Safety (Part 1)
Thursday, Dec 7, 2 – 4 pm Central
Legal Issues in Tribal Food Safety (Part 2)
Any questions about this webinar series or other FSMA trainings should be directed to IFAI director Janie Hipp (email@example.com), Sandy Martini (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr. H.L. Goodwin (email@example.com).
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.
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.
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.
Janie Simms Hipp, director (Chickasaw)
Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative
Bryan Pollard, director of tribal relations (Cherokee)
Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative
Mary Alice Fancyboy, a junior in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded the National Geographic Society’s Young Explorer’s Grant.
The Young Explorer’s Grant was established for aspiring explorers between the ages of 18 and 25. Fancyboy was awarded the maximum amount of $5,000 to cover the field project costs of her upcoming trip to the rural villages of Pilot Station, Marshall, and Kotlik, Alaska through the entire month of June 2017.
Her project, titled “Discovering the Modern Yup’ik Peoples of Western Alaska,” aims to document the evolving culture of the Yup’ik people in a way that will allow those who may not be familiar with it to access the information easily. The Yup’ik, which is translated to mean “the real people,” are an indigenous people native to western, south central and southwestern Alaska and the Russian Far East.
“This project is important to me because I actually lived in one of the villages I’m visiting for the first five years of my life, and I am half Yup’ik,” said Fancyboy, who is majoring in cultural anthropology and psychology, and minoring in political science.
“It’s crucial that cultures like this be documented before their customs, languages and traditions are lost in history. I believe I’m in a prime position to do this by having a foot in both doors, so to speak. Beyond that, I feel compelled to do so,” she said.
As her trip progresses, Fancyboy will be collecting interviews, video clips and photos to post at Discovering the Modern Yup’ik Peoples of Western Alaska on Facebook, and to the Instagram handle @m_explores.
National Geographic awards the Young Explorer’s Grant to diligent, creative young individuals who are passionate about their projects and ideas. The grant was designed to support a new generation of adventurers, geographers, anthropologists, astronomers, geologists, conservationists, ecologists, marine scientists, storytellers, pioneers and archaeologists.
For more information about the Young Explorer’s Grant, visit their website.