Assistant Professor of Native American and Environmental Studies
Smith was a visiting instructor in Anthropology at Wheaton College, MA in the Fall 2014. From 2015-2016, she was the Scholar-in-Residence Fellow in the American Studies Program at Carleton College and she continued as a visiting instructor in that program for winter and spring 2017 before joining CSI in the fall of 2017.
Broadly, Smith’s research interests include indigenous decolonization and revitalization, especially in New England; indigenous-settler relations past, present, and future; and the politics of knowledge production in settler colonial societies. Her most recent work focuses on the place, history, and memory of the Wabanaki village at Nanrantsouak on the upper Kennebec River in Maine. In this work, she considers how Wabanaki story, memory, and kinship to this place serve as resistance to settler colonial productions of history and memory that have narrated this place as the “end” of the Wabanaki in this area and enact new possibilities for the future. Her work is grounded in community and land. She is an advocate of research community-engaged, community directed, and collaborative on-the-ground learning.
Smith’s teaching interests include decolonizing U.S. lands and histories; indigenous New England, histories of Indian-settler relations; American Indian lands and sovereignties; indigenous environmental activism; indigenous ways of knowing; place and memory in social theory; structures of social inequality; and ethnographic methods.
"Everything you know about Indians is wrong."- Paul Chaat Smith. This interdisciplinary course offers an introduction to important topics in the field of Native American Studies. We will examine history, literature, art, politics, and current events to explore the complex relationship between historical and contemporary issues that indigenous peoples face in North America, with a focus on the United States. We will pay particular attention to the creative ways that indigenous communities have remained vibrant in the face of ongoing colonial struggle. Topics include histories of Indian-settler relations, American Indian sovereignty, Indigenous ecological knowledge practices, American Indian philosophical and literary traditions, and American Indian activism. NOTE: This course includes a mandatory film/discussion lab.
From battles against oil pipelines and fracking on indigenous lands, to the fight for clean fish and traditional sustenance fishing rights, to the struggle for indigenous sovereignty, Indigenous peoples around the globe are engaging in social and environmental activism. In this course we will consider how the histories of dispossession and settler colonialism inform indigenous approaches to environmental justice. We will learn about indigenous philosophies of the environment by examining indigenous creation stories and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). We will also engage the politics of indigenous environmental activism, which is haunted by the specter of the "ecologically noble Indian." This image of the ultimate environmental savior is a caricature of indigenous peoples that, while useful in gaining support from non-Indian allies for indigenous causes, can also undermine indigenous sovereignty. Students will be evaluated on classroom participation, short assignments, a current events project, and a final project and presentation.
What is the relationship between settler colonialism, environmentalism, and indigenous peoples in the US? In this course we will examine how settler-colonial practices of indigenous erasure and dispossession made possible the rise environmental thought and activism in the US. We will consider how and why the specter of the "ecologically noble Indian," the ultimate environmental savior, haunts environmentalist movements and the effects of this image on indigenous peoples and their ongoing struggles to protect their lands and sovereignties. This course will focus on the US, but will include some consideration of Canada. It will engage the fields of settler colonial and environmental history, anthropology, Native American studies, decolonial studies, and environmental justice.
How does a place become part of our cultural memory and national heritage, even if we've never been there? In this interdisciplinary course we will draw on Anthropology, History, American Studies, Native American Studies, and other fields to explore how certain places and histories come to be important to an American national imaginary. We will engage social theories of place, memory, nationalism, settler colonialism, and decolonization to help us critically examine specific sites of national memory such as Plymouth Rock, Mt. Rushmore, and the Alamo. We will consider the processes through which narratives of nationalism are created from contested histories and places, paying particular attention to Native American perspectives.
Places and our attachments to them are a profound part of human experience. We imbue places with layers of cultural meaning and these places shape us, as both individuals and groups. How we make and relate to places, is also shaped by our cultural and social contexts. Place-making and place-meaning are about sharing experiences through stories. Place, then, is an excellent way to develop skills for ethnographic storytelling. In this course, we will examine place as an aspect of human cultural and social life as a way to develop skills for writing ethnography. We will begin building a toolkit of methods for understanding place in human societies and cultures. We will critically engage historical and contemporary ethnographic accounts of place and place-making around the globe. Students will use these experiences to develop their own ethnographic craft through exercises and projects, culminating in creative ethnographic final projects.