Arkansas School of Law launches ‘Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative’
BY STAFF REPORTS
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas School of Law scheduled to launch the “Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative” on Jan. 15, making it the nation’s first law school initiative focusing on tribal food systems, agriculture and community sustainability.
The initiative will draw on the nationally recognized expertise of Janie Simms Hipp, who leaves her post as the senior adviser for tribal relations to Thomas Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and on that of Cherokee Nation citizen Stacy Leeds, currently the only Native American law school dean in the country. Hipp will serve as director of the initiative and as visiting professor of law.
“I am honored and thrilled to return to my alma mater and to northwest Arkansas to assist the dean, the School of Law and the University of Arkansas in this important endeavor,” Hipp, a Chickasaw Nation citizen, said. “The initiative we are embarking upon will support tribal governments and rural communities throughout our region and the nation in making investments in our nation’s food and energy security. When indigenous communities use their natural resources to create jobs and strengthen local communities, we all benefit.”
Among its strategic plans, the initiative will provide educational and technical assistance to tribal governments, private entities and businesses engaging or entering the food sector.
Other areas of research, service and education will include agriculture, health and nutrition law and policy development, professional training of government and corporate leaders, and the formation of pipeline programs to engage students at the community level and foster them through four-year higher education institutions, law and graduate opportunities.
Hipp is an attorney and graduate of the U of A School of Law’s internationally renowned master of laws program in Agricultural and Food Law, the nation’s only advanced law degree program in agricultural and food law. She is the founder of the USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations in the Office of the Secretary and served two terms on the USDA 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.
Leeds is one of five commissioners of the Secretarial Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform, established by Secretary Ken Salazar of the U.S. Department of Interior.
The commission was created to conduct a comprehensive two-year evaluation of the department’s management and administration of nearly $4 billion in American Indian trust assets and to offer recommendations on improvements in the future. She will be honored in February with the American Bar Association’s Spirit of Excellence Award for her contributions to enhancing diversity in the legal profession. “This interdisciplinary initiative plays to the strengths of the university and the law school,” Leeds said. “It will further enrich our highly acclaimed L.L.M. program in Agricultural and Food Law, which has produced many of our nation’s most well-respected agriculture law and policy leaders, including Janie Hipp.”
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