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Cherry Smiley

Trudeau Scholar - PhD Communication

Cherry Smiley

As an artist and feminist activist from the Nlaka'pamux (Thompson) and Diné (Navajo) Nations, I have worked as an anti-violence worker in a rape crisis center and transition house for battered women and their children, as the assistant coordinator for a drop-in anti-violence group for Indigenous girls, and as a project manager for a national native women’s organization. I also speak locally, nationally and internationally on sexualized colonial male violence against Indigenous women and girls. 

Research description

Feminist sex trade researchers cite Indigenous women and girls as “Canada’s first prostituted women.” These women and girls were sexually exploited as “country wives” and through brothels near early forts and military bases. Constructed as “squaws,” Indigenous women and girls are seen as savage, subhuman and disposable. They are depicted as women and girls who always want sex and are sexually available to men at all times.

Despite their over-representation in street prostitution, Indigenous women occupy marginal positions in sexual exploitation discourse. This research posits the sexual exploitation of Indigenous women and girls as a site to understanding expressions of colonial male violence and their impacts on Indigenous women and girls. Engaging feminist Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, I will explore connections between various forms of male violence against Indigenous women and girls, and seek feminist solutions to influence policies regarding this crisis.

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