Arkansas School of Law launches ‘Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative’
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.”
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City school board has voted to remove the Redskins mascot at Capitol Hill High School.
The board voted 8-0 Monday night to remove the mascot after hearing from students, teachers and a district official who said the nickname is offensive and harmful — especially to American Indian students.
The Oklahoman reports that the meeting broke out in cheers, applause and hugs after the vote.
District administrators will immediately eliminate the Redskins mascot. District spokeswoman Tierney Tinnin said a committee of students, alumni and community members will be chosen to select a new mascot by the end of the spring semester.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to a report presented at the Sept. 25 Executive and Finance Committee meeting, Sequoyah High School’s enrollment has increased in recent years while its Bureau of Indian Education allocations have decreased.
Dr. Neil Morton, Cherokee Nation Education Services senior advisor, said in the 2011-12 school year, SHS enrolled 347 students while BIE allocated $384,000. He said in the 2012-13 school year, SHS enrolled 370 students while the BIE allocated $371,000. And in the 2013-14 school year, SHS enrolled 377 students while the BIE allocated $363,000, he said.
In a Nov. 9 email, Morton stated the BIE funding formula is based on three-year enrollment averages.
“Because we are taking more students, our enrollment grows each year,” he wrote. “Since funding is based on an average of the last three years, funding has not yet caught up to our actual enrollment need. Since the funding model is an average of the three previous years, that means next year there will be more funding, and more the next year after that, as long as we continue to add more students.”
He said Sequoyah had 149 freshmen applicants for the 2014-15 school year compared to 108 in 2013-14.
A report shows in the 2011-12 school year SHS was awarded more than $3.9 million from the federal Indian School Equalization Program. The following year SHS received more than $3.6 million, and in the 2013-14 school year it received more than $3.4 million.
During an Aug. 28 Tribal Council meeting, SHS received a fiscal year 2014 budget modification under Legislative Act 23-14 that transferred more than $1.2 million to Sequoyah’s administration and more than $400,000 for SHS facilities projects.
“Our school building at Sequoyah is also aging, which also requires more money each year to maintain and keep it running,” Morton said on Nov. 19. “For these combined reasons, we asked Tribal Council to transfer $1.2 million to maintain a balanced budget at Sequoyah."
Morton said on Sept. 25 that Sequoyah’s deficit started when its new gym was built and that people mistakenly think of Sequoyah as a relatively new school.
“Right now it’s at the time where major maintenance kicks in,” he said. “So we spent a great deal of money on what we normally consider a new school. We are using facilities at Sequoyah that are older than any other school in our 14-county area. We spend more on utilities for that new gym then we do most of campus. That thing is hard to cool, hard to heat. That’s a lot of space.”
According to a report showing federal funding for SHS facilities, in the 2011-12 school year SHS facilities were funded more than $1.1 million. In the 2012-13 school year they was funded more than $990,000 and in the 2013-14 school year they were funded more than $920,000.
On Nov. 9, Morton said the cost to run the school in FY 2014 was $5.5 million and $4 million in FY 2013.
The Phoenix asked for an itemized list of how much funds are distributed to each area of the school and spent but did not receive it as of publication.
According to CN financial reports, on Sept. 30, 2011, SHS had a surplus of more than $1 million. On Sept. 30, 2013, the surplus had decreased to $79,000.
The Phoenix asked why there was a decrease in the surplus and where the money was spent but did not receive a response.
According to Morton’s Sept. 25 report, there has been an overall decline of funding allocations within instruction, residential, language, gifted and talented and special education.
“We just simply had more costs than we had student-based allocations to pay for. We did not cut the educational program. In fact, two years ago we added to the curriculum,” Morton said. “Like most schools in Oklahoma, we wound up in the hole. We’re trying to overcome that by doing a little switching of responsibility. Cherokee Nation facilities are managing the facilities of Sequoyah now so that we could buy in larger lots and then separate out by budgets. We’re saving some money there.”
Morton said the school had 29 GSA vehicles from previous years that are being transferred out except for school buses. “Everywhere that we can see we can cut costs we are cutting costs.”
However, Morton said no employees are losing jobs, no programs are being cut and the school has received $5.7 million for its 2015 allocation.
“We will have other allocations that will be added to that for special projects,” he said. “So the picture for this year looks good. We will be able to regain in the some of the areas where we had deficits this year. Our goal this year is to at least break even. I don’t anticipate on having any carryover.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s first-ever traffic light project with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is being touted a success by ODOT, city and tribal officials.
ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson visited Tahlequah on Dec . 4 to see the new traffic light at the U.S. Hwy 62 and Coffee Hollow Road intersection, where 11,000 drivers pass through daily.
“I want to praise the Cherokee Nation and the city of Tahlequah for their community-mindedness and stepping up to make these safety improvements possible,” Patterson said. “ODOT has a great working relationship with the tribes and cities in eastern Oklahoma, and I believe that will continue as we partner on more transportation projects in the future.”
The CN began project construction in July, and the traffic light was activated Nov. 18.
“I truly believe this new traffic light is going to make a difference in the quality of life and safety of all drivers, but especially our Cherokee Nation students and employees,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “I very much appreciate the partnership our roads department was able to have with the state’s transportation department, and how hardworking and diligent everyone was to see the project completed.”
The intersection is the entrance to Sequoyah High School, Head Start, Cherokee Immersion Charter School and the Early Childhood Development Center.
“My wife and I go through the intersection at a minimal four times a day, two in which our children are with us, and it used to be scary,” Howard Paden, parent of three girls, said. “Like most parents, we hoped that someone would put a traffic light up not only for safety but for convenience. Some days you had to wait at the intersection for 15 minutes, or chance trying to make a turn in oncoming traffic.”
The Nation funded the project from a half-million-dollar grant from the Federal Highway Administration Tribal Transportation Program and the tribal Roads Department funded the remainder of the total $750,000 project cost. ODOT approved the plans and provided oversight.
Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols said the traffic light doesn’t just help the CN.
“We have had some emergency services that respond to accidents at this intersection, so anytime it can be made safer so that we don’t have to divert our resources outside the city, we’re happy,” Nichols said. “For anyone going in and out of the Cherokee Nation complex and the school, including a lot of Tahlequah residents, this light just makes the trip a lot smoother. It’s really a wonderful improvement for traffic on this south end of town.”
In fiscal year 2014, the Nation completed 64.2 miles of road and bridge projects throughout the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. More than $13 million of tribal and federal dollars were used in the 28 projects.
“As the legislative body of this tribe, our job is to allocate our resources to helping our people and improving roads and bridges, and the safety of busy intersections is always one of those priorities,” Tribal Council Speaker Tina Glory Jordan said. “We know this stoplight means a great deal to everyone, from Head Start teachers, Sequoyah bus drivers and residents headed to work every day.”
For more information on the Roads Department, call 918-453-5731.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Until Dec. 31, the Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Unit will be accepting applications for Early Head Start, ages 6 weeks to 3 years, and Head Start, ages 3 and 4, at all centers.
Head Start is a free program for all qualifying families. Applications for children with special needs are encouraged.
A copy of household income verification, the child’s state certified birth certificate, current immunization record, tribal citizenship or Certificate Degree of Indian Blood cards and the child’s Social Security card must be attached to the application to be considered for screening.
For a list of center locations or to apply, contact the ECU office or download an application online at <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Education/HeadStart-EarlyChildhoodUnit.aspx" target="_blank">http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Education/HeadStart-EarlyChildhoodUnit.aspx</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Dec. 11-12, the Sequoyah High School drama class will present a theatrical production of “Please Come Home for Christmas” at the SHS cafeteria.
“I’m so excited to do another Christmas dinner show. We’re so thankful to have a community that supports the performing arts,” Amanda Ray, SHS drama teacher, said. “Last year, we had sold-out shows and this year, I’m sure we’ll have another great production.”
The play focuses on keeping the true meaning of Christmas and how spending time with family and friends is the best gift.
“Everyone is really excited and we rehearse every day after school. I know I’m especially excited because this is my last performance at Sequoyah before I graduate in December,” Sequoyah student Diamond Bailey, said. “The cast is really dedicated to making a great show.”
Other Sequoyah students performing in the show consist of Garrett Million, Seif Drywater, Noah Scearce, Tyler VonHolt, Marissa Mitchell, Sara Cheater, Sharon Stanley, Ashley Anderson, Katelyn Morton and Savannah Edgar.
The Thursday and Friday performances will begin at 6:30 p.m. and include a full turkey and dressing dinner with paid admission. Tickets are $5. For reservations, call Ray at 918-453-5156 or email <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.
WINSLOW, Ariz. (AP) – The federal government finances 183 schools and dormitories for Native American children on or near reservations in 23 states. The schools are some of the nation’s lowest performing.
An effort is underway to improve them.
Five things to know about the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Education schools:
<strong>THE IMPROVEMENT PLAN</strong>
The Obama administration wants to turn day-to-day operations of more of the schools over to tribes, bring in more board-certified teachers, upgrade Internet access and make it easier to hire teachers and buy textbooks. The plan also seeks to provide more support to schools to advance American Indian languages and culture.
But many the schools are in poor physical condition. An estimated $1.3 billion is needed to replace or refurbish rundown facilities, and not much money is coming from Washington. There also is much mistrust of the federal government, given the history of forced assimilation.
The system of government boarding schools to educate Native American students was established in the 19th century as part of an assimilation policy to “eradicate Native cultures and languages through Western education,” according to a government study group.
One of the first to be run directly by Washington was the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, which opened in 1879. It was founded by Richard Henry Pratt, an Army officer who said, “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man,” according to Jon Reyhner, an education professor at Northern Arizona University.
Many commissions have called for improvements to Indian schools. One, in the 1920s, said the students should be treated as “human beings.”
In 1966, what was then called the Rough Rock Demonstration School opened in Chinle, Arizona, a prototype of the schools that are today owned by the federal government but run by tribes.
While about 7 percent of Indian students attend a bureau school today, the great majority are at traditional public schools.
Only a few bureau schools fully immerse students in a Native American language or culture. Others offer them in lesser degrees. But this type of instruction is a draw for parents.
About 6,900 students live in dorms operated by the bureau.
Little Singer Community School outside Winslow, Arizona, was the vision in the 1970s of a medicine man who longed for area children to attend a local school. Today, it serves 81 students and school leaders emphasize a nurturing environment. But the rundown classroom buildings have problems with asbestos, radon, mice, mold and flimsy outside door locks. The school has been on a government priority list since at least 2004 for new construction.
<strong>PERFORMANCE OF NATIVE AMERICAN STUDENTS</strong>
Indian students overall score higher overall on assessments than those who attend bureau schools.
Native American students overall have high school graduation rates that are lower than the student population as a whole, 68 percent compared with 81 percent, according to government figures from 2011-2012. They also lag peers on a national assessment known as the “nation’s report card” and have lower rates of college completion.
In a 2011 survey conducted as part of the national assessment, 56 percent of Native American and Alaska Native students reported knowing some or a lot about their tribe or group’s history. The rest reported knowing little or nothing.