FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Janie Simms Hipp, director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law, was honored by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development as the 2017 Tim Wapato Public Advocate of the Year. She was selected based on her leadership and exemplary commitment to advancing economic progress in the American Indian business community.
“Janie Simms Hipp is not only helping our tribal communities, but is shaping the next generation of policy and education leaders,” said Chris James, the National Center’s president and CEO. “She shares the National Center’s commitment to improving communities from the bottom up. We are pleased to be able to honor her years of dedication and service to Indian Country.”
The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development is the largest national Indian-specific business organization in the United States. It helps Tribal Nations and Native business people realize their business goals and is “dedicated to putting the whole of Indian Country to work to better the lives of American Indian people,” according to a center news release.
The center recognizes several Native American business leaders and those who have made significant contributions to advancing economic development in Indian Country. This year’s awardees span businesses large and small. In addition to Hipp’s award for public advocacy, award categories include tribal leadership, gaming, women-owned business and volunteers.
The awards were presented on March 14 at the 31st National Reservation Summit American Indian Enterprise Luncheon held at the Mirage in Las Vegas. Hipp’s award is named for Timothy Wapato, a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes and noted tribal sovereignty advocate who dedicated his career in Washington, D.C., and across the country to educating policy makers about tribal governments, tribal sovereignty and tribal culture.
The National Reservation Summit, held by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, is the largest economic development gathering in Indian Country and brings together more than 4,000 Native American leaders, businesses and business owners, subject-matter experts, government officials and others.
Hipp was recently honored by former President Barack Obama with the Volunteer Service Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award, from the Corporation for National and Community Service, is for individuals who contribute more than 4,000 hours of service in their lifetime.
Before coming to the University of Arkansas School of Law, Hipp was a senior adviser to former United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and founded the USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations.
Hipp is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and holds a Bachelor of Arts in social work from the University of Oklahoma, Juris Doctor from Oklahoma City University and Master of Laws in agricultural and food law from the University of Arkansas.