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.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Foundation is accepting applications for the Cherokee Scholars Program, which aims to help Cherokee students prepare for success in college. The deadline to apply is June 1.
“The Cherokee Scholars program is a great way for students to earn extra money for college that is in addition to funds they can receive through the tribe and their scholarships,” CNF Executive Director Janice Randall said. “On top of challenging them academically, we also hold them accountable for keeping track of their progress and recording their achievement.”
The program outlines a specific progression of academic coursework throughout high school in areas such as math, science, language arts and social studies. Students who successfully complete the Cherokee Scholars program earn funds to help alleviate the financial burden that comes with pursuing a higher education.
There are two levels of achievement within the program: the Basic and the Prestigious. The Basic Cherokee Scholars Program allows students to earn up to $4,000 for their college education by fulfilling requirements including: four credits of English, three credits of math, three credits of basic lab science, 3.5 credits of social studies and two credits in the Cherokee language, foreign language or technology.
Students interested in the Prestigious Cherokee Scholars Program must complete the requirements listed above as well as take an additional credit of math and basic lab science and complete a CN history course offered by the foundation. Students who successfully complete the Prestigious Cherokee Scholars Program have the potential to earn up to $8,000 to support their college education.
To enroll in the Cherokee Scholars Program, students are required to be a CN citizen, have a minimum 3.0 GPA and be entering seventh, eighth or ninth grade.
Applications can be found at <a href="http://www.cherokeenationfoundation.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeenationfoundation.org</a>.
For more information, contact Cherokee Nation Foundation at 918-207-0950 or Janice Randall <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.
WASHINGTON – On April 2, the Department of the Interior announced it had transferred more than $12 million to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, bringing the total amount transferred to $17 million.
“With every transfer to the scholarship fund, we are making valuable investments in the training and education that Native students need to succeed in today’s world,” Interior Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor said. “This program is a lasting tribute to Elouise Cobell, whose vision, leadership and concern for tribal students and their families has created a living legacy for future generations of tribal leaders.”
Authorized by the Cobell Settlement, and funded in part by the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, the scholarship fund provides financial assistance through scholarships to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary and graduate education and training.
“The department is thrilled that the Cobell Scholarship Fund is growing quickly so that Native students can pursue their academic dreams to go to college or graduate school,” Hilary Tompkins, DOI solicitor, said. “The expertise, abilities and skills these students gain can help to advance self- determination and shape future leaders in Indian Country.”
The American Indian Graduate Center located in Albuquerque, New Mexico administers the scholarship fund, and the Cobell Board of Trustees oversees it.
The Interior makes quarterly transfers to the fund as a result of Buy-Back Program sales, up to a total of $60 million. The amount contributed is based on a formula set forth in the Cobell Settlement that sets aside a certain amount of funding depending on the value of the fractionated interests sold. These contributions do not reduce the amount that an owner will receive for voluntarily consolidating their interests. The Buy-Back Program has paid more than $360 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of almost 570,000 acres of land to tribal governments.
The Buy-Back Program was created to implement the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractionated interests in trust or restricted land from willing landowners. Consolidated interests are transferred to tribal government ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal citizens.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Sequoyah High School senior Garrett Million has achieved his dream of studying and living in New York City.
The 18-year-old from Tahlequah was recently accepted into New York University in New York City and was offered a $65,000 scholarship that is renewable for up to four years. He plans to study theater.
“Part of the scholarship was going up and auditioning for their performing arts school. It’s a merit-based scholarship so they looked at my academics, my ACT (American College Testing) score and my audition and figured whether or not to give me a scholarship,” he said.
Million auditioned in January in New York City after Tahlequah residents raised money for him to travel.
“I had a lot of help from the community to help get me up there,” he said.
At NYU he will work toward a bachelor’s degree in theater. He said after completing his degree, he hopes to work professionally as an actor or pursue a master’s degree in fine arts.
Million said his interest in the performing arts “has always been there.” He said when he was younger he graduated from watching the children’s character Barney to watching “Gone With the Wind,” as well as admiring actors Meryl Streep and Daniel Day Lewis, who inspired him.
He’s taken part in Sequoyah’s Drama Department productions of “Grease,” “Songs from the Silver Screen,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Beauty and the Beast.” This past Christmas he was in a variety show titled “Please Come Home for Christmas.” Also, he was just cast in “Spectacular, Spectacular,” the school’s final show of the year.
“Garrett stood out his first year in the Drama Department. He had such a bubbly personality and such an eagerness to learn all he could about theater. He has taken my class every year since his freshman semester and every day brings something new,” SHS Drama Department teacher Amanda Ray said. “He keeps up with current events, theater-related news, is incredibly devoted to his studies in all of his classes and is just an all-around genuinely good person. With a student like Garrett, as a teacher I never feel like I’m forcing a student to accept information. It’s more like getting to have intelligent daily conversations.”
Ray added that when Million decided to try for NYU’s theater program she was “ecstatic.” She said she believed in him and knew he had the talent, the grades and the determination, so she offered to help him with his auditions pieces and gave him encouragement.
“Ms. Ray, she helped me realize and made me want to further my potential and helped me want to work harder and just really inspired me,” Million said.
Ray said she always tries to be honest with students when she critiques their audition pieces.
“With Garrett I know I’m watching the beginnings of what I know will be a marvelous career. I always tried to encourage him and to reinforce that it doesn’t matter that he’s coming from a small town and that there are hundreds of students auditioning for NYU every year, what matters is that he gives a truthful audition, that his talent is real and honest, and I think he accomplished that,” she said. “He is a role model for the younger drama students and has certainly set the bar high.”
Million has also sung with the Cherokee National Youth Choir for three years and fulfilled his dream of visiting New York City two years ago when the choir sang in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“It’s great to have the opportunity to go up there and live for four years in the city that I love,” he said.
His other interests include reading, serving on the SHS Student Council, speech/debate classes, Native storytelling and being in the school’s National Honor Society group.
He also advises others who see his success at getting the NYU scholarship to not be afraid.
“If you’re good at what you do and you want to work harder at it, really, just push forward regardless of anything,” he said.
STILWELL, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Child Development Center in Stilwell recently joined the Learn to Grow Program, which gives children the chance to maintain gardens and learn about healthy nutrition.
Tomatoes, squash, bell peppers, okra and cucumbers will be grown in the gardens.
Adair County is now the sixth county in the tribe’s jurisdiction to take part in the program, which is designed to serve Cherokee children in home provider facilities and daycares.
There are currently more than 3,300 children who tend gardens within the tribe. The nine additional facilities added in Adair County bring the number of centers with gardens to 111.
According to a CN press release, the nutrition program caught the attention of the White House when first lady Michelle Obama commended the CN this past fall. In a letter, she thanked the CN for promoting the health and wellness of its citizens through the program.
“If we can teach these young kids that playing in the dirt is not only fun, but can also yield healthy and nutritious food, then that is a wonderful lesson,” said Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden. “There’s a saying that I like, ‘Being on my knees and digging in the garden dirt brings me closer to God.’ Cherokee Nation’s Learn to Grow effort has so many lifelong benefits for our young and impressionable citizens that can help nourish them in body and soul.”
The Learn to Grow Program is set in place to encourage youth to go outdoors and become interested in gardening and ultimately eating healthier.
According to the release, all Learn to Grow project facilities receive training, two garden beds full of soil and multiple varieties of seeds, including summer and fall vegetables. Once ripe, the providers use the produce to prepare meals for the children.
“The Learn to Grow project is in its third year, and it is so exciting to see the children in their gardens,” project coordinator Lisa Evans said. “There is so much research that shows the health benefits the children are gaining from the gardening experience, while also increasing the likelihood of healthier eating now and in future for our children throughout Cherokee Nation.”
The CDC in Stilwell serves up to 90 children in the summer months.
The CN partners with the Department of Human Services Child Care Licensing, Oklahoma State University Extension Office, Native American Association of Ketchum and other various groups for the Learn to Grow initiative.
For more information, call 918-253-4219.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Career Services is accepting applications for its free and paid Fast Track Welding Certification Apprenticeship Program. The course is for individuals interested in making a career out of welding.
Marvin Courville, a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, is the course instructor who was finishing his first Tahlequah-based class in April.
Courville, a certified welding inspector, said he can certify people in the field and that the course is a way to get more people certified in welding.
“What we’re trying to do is get the skill levels of these potential certified welders up to the standards of AWS, which is the American Welding Society, so that we can test them and certify them to the AWS certification,” he said.
Courville said the course is hands-on and labor intensive. He added that the training is the first of its kind with ironworkers and the CN coming together.
CN citizen Seth Alsenay, 19, is a course participant who would one day like to weld on big structural buildings.
“I’ve always been interested in welding. I’ve always been interested in the union and this opportunity came up and I took it,” he said. “I love welding. That’s what I want to do.”
Alsenay said he has been welding for approximately five years, and if the opportunity came up, he would like to work for the CN as a welder.
To participate in the course participants must pass a drug test; be on time to class and ready to learn; commit to a 10-week course with attendance being mandatory; and be able to read, write and follow instructions. Applicants must also be self-employed and without work due to general economic conditions in the community. They must provide legal documents that prove they were self-employed, such as a tax form that was filed. Applicants must be a dislocated worker who has been laid off or has received a documentation notice of their layoff.
Participants are not required to be Native American to take part in the class.
The next 10-week course was expected to begin April 28 at the Local Ironworkers Union 584 in Tulsa.
For more information, call Linda Sacks at 918-574-2749, Christy Stites at 918-342-7450 or Charbrice Evans at 918-825-7988.
CATOOSA, Okla. – Representatives from 107 northeastern Oklahoma school districts walked out of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa a little richer on March 27 as Cherokee Nation officials distributed $4,084,888.44 in car tag revenue at the annual Public School Appreciation Day.
Each year, the tribe allocates 38 percent of the revenue generated by its car tag sales to northeastern Oklahoma school districts. The checks are outside of the state aid formula, which means individual districts have complete discretion on how to spend those funds.
At Sequoyah High School, which received $107,851.84 this year, the money is going directly to provide opportunities for its students beyond the classroom.
“All funds we receive are earmarked for student activities,” Sequoyah Schools Superintendent Leroy Qualls said. “Sequoyah students have been very successful in extracurricular activities, which strain the school budget. We are very grateful to receive funds through the motor vehicle tax program to help with student expenses throughout the school year.”
Including Sequoyah, Cherokee County schools received about $679,000 dollars from tag revenue. Tahlequah Public Schools was the single largest benefactor across the board, with the district receiving $214,699.74.
“We benefit greatly from the funding because we are able to utilize the funds in the classrooms where it counts the most,” Tahlequah Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Presley said. “The motor vehicle tag funding provides extra necessities needed to enhance our programs and school systems.”
With CN citizens across Oklahoma now able to purchase vehicle tags, the Tribal Council passed the CN Motor Vehicle Licensing and Tax Code Modification of 2015 in February, extending tag sale revenue to school districts just outside of the tribe’s jurisdictional areas in Tulsa, Rogers, Wagoner, Mayes and Muskogee counties. Those five counties alone accounted for $1.5 million in car tag revenue in 2014.
Prior to the amendment, funding was only given to districts at least partially within the Nation’s 14-county jurisdictional area or within a two-mile buffer zone along its boundaries.
The change made 16 additional districts and charter schools eligible for car tag funds from the tribe for the first time, including Bixby, Glenpool, Haskell, Liberty, Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, Sand Springs, Keystone, Porter Consolidated, Oktaha, Wainwright, Broken Arrow and Tulsa’s KIPP College Preparatory.
Serving students in southwestern Tulsa County and a sliver of Creek County, the Nation’s $31,122.12 check was a welcome sight for Jenks Public Schools as Oklahoma officials continue to wrestle with a $611 million budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year. The district has 28 tribes represented among its 730 Native students, including 217 CN citizens.
“We are extremely excited to receive the support of the Cherokee Nation, especially for the educational needs of our children,” Christine Denny, Jenks Public Schools Native American Education coordinator, said. “This gift is going to have a huge impact for our students. I admire the tribe’s dedication to support public education and their Native students.”
Funding for each district is based on the number of Cherokee students enrolled. With more than 10,000 additional car tags sold compared to 2014, the additional $664,000 in revenue helped raise the per pupil funding from $135 per student in 2014 to $143.42 per student this year, even with 16 additional districts receiving checks.
There are also 3,104 more Cherokee students included in this year’s count, up from approximately 25,700 in the previous year.
“Supporting our local school districts is important to our long-term success,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “These partnerships with schools represent the Cherokee Nation’s investment in the future of northeast Oklahoma.”
<strong>CAR TAG FUNDING BY COUNTY</strong>
<strong>FIVE LARGEST RECIPIENT DISTRICTS</strong>
Tahlequah Public Schools: $214,699.74
*Broken Arrow Public Schools: $155,754.12
Muskogee Public Schools: $137,970.04
Owasso Public Schools: $114,162.32
Claremore Public Schools: $113,014.96
*First time recipients