Cherry Smiley

Study program:
Current affiliation:
Concordia University

Cherry Smiley (communications, Concordia University). Cherry’s research aims to help end sexualized violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Doctoral research

Unceded Bodies: Historical Roots, Contemporary Causes, and Full-Circle Solutions to Ending Male Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls

According to Farley, Lynne, and Cotton, Indigenous women and girls were “Canada’s first prostituted women” and were sexually exploited as “country wives” and through brothels near early forts and military bases. Today, Indigenous women and girls continue to experience disproportionate rates of male violence. Grounded in Indigenous feminist theory, this research posits the sexual exploitation of Indigenous women and girls as a key site to understanding historical and contemporary expressions of colonialism and their impacts on Indigenous women and girls. Engaging feminist and Indigenous communities, this research will explore connections between the various forms of violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and girls and the historical and contemporary contexts of this violence. It will also seek community-based solutions to influence local and national policies regarding this human rights crisis.

Cherry Smiley, from the Nlaka'pamux (Thompson) and Diné (Navajo) Nations, is a researcher, feminist activist, and artist who is working to end male violence against women and girls, particularly sexualized male violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Cherry’s research, activism, and artwork overlap and intersect, and her work is grounded in Indigenous feminist theory, storytelling, and creative practice. Cherry has worked as a frontline anti-violence worker in a rape crisis centre and transition house for battered women and their children. She has assisted in the coordination of an anti-violence group for young Indigenous women, and she has worked as a project manager in the area of violence prevention and safety for a national Native women’s organization. She is a founding member of Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry (IWASI) and is honoured to have been invited to speak at conferences, events, and rallies in locations such as Prince Rupert, Toronto, New York City, London (England), and Tromsø (Norway). She has won numerous awards for her work toward women's liberation, including the Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Person's Case (youth) in 2013 and the 2014 Simon Fraser University Ted and Nora Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy.

In 2014, Cherry graduated with a master of fine arts degree from Simon Fraser University, exhibiting her photo-text installation, Revolution Songs: Stories of Prostitution. She has also exhibited artwork in locations such as Vancouver BC, Kamloops BC, and London England. She is currently in the communications PhD program at Concordia University in Montréal, Québec, Canada, where her research focuses on ending sexualized male violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Cherry’s research, activism, and artwork are inspired by her own and others’ experiences of male violence, as well as by the resiliency she has experienced and witnessed first-hand. She is also inspired daily by her family’s acts of resistance and love and by the courage of her ancestors. She is grateful every day for the support she receives from her partner, family, and friends, who help to make this work possible.