Kristi Leora Gansworth
Anishinaabe Poet, Ph.D. Candidate in Geography
York University in Toronto, Ontario
Kristi Leora Gansworth’s Anishinaabe heritage informs the basis for her ontology and identity. Gansworth has always been a writer, and her longstanding relationship with poetry and literature motivated her to pursue a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Goddard College). Later, Gansworth grew increasingly more interested in environmental health and justice and completed her second Master’s in Environment and Community (Antioch University). There, Gansworth explored her questions surrounding water policy, environmental health in Indigenous communities, and challenges of access to fresh water and healthy food on many Indigenous territories. Now, as a Ph.D. candidate in Geography (York University), Gansworth combines her interest in water, along with her Anishinaabe heritage and experiences, to consider how invigorating Anishinaabeg laws can positively affect the environmental health of Indigenous communities.
1. What motivated you to pursue a doctorate in geography?
During my second Master’s, as I was reflecting on questions surrounding environmental justice and Indigenous knowledge, a professor recommended that I consider pursuing a doctorate in geography. At first, I dismissed his comment as irrelevant, but I later realized that in this field of study, many scholars were doing important and exciting work. And perhaps there might be a place
for my work within this area as well. I chose human geography because it integrates many aspects of how people relate to their environments and has the most room to incorporate aspects of legal studies, as legal geographies are an important part of the narratives I am examining. The central question for my research is “what is an appropriate policy?” and there are many considerations.
2. How does your First Nations heritage influence your choice of study in geography?
As an Anishinaabe woman, our responsibilities to water are immense and have everything to do with how we build our lives. It is powerful to think about what this truly means and to view water as an entity rather than a commodity. In my research, I am using a proactive approach to look at water policy and perceptions of water that reflect Anishinaabe understandings.
3. How do you incorporate geography into your poetry?
In the past, poetry was largely a cathartic practice. As I have grown in my process and method, I now see poetry as a necessary component of my everyday language and perception. Academic reading and study requires that students capture the central ideas of a text, but there is another part of me that wants to engage with the material in another manner. Poetry has become less about catharsis and more about trying to process and integrate multiple understandings that are happening all at once. It is my way of preserving a whole other layer of historical context, especially when I am looking at social theories related to geography.
4. Do you have any advice for students wishing to attain a fulfilling career in geography?
To be honest, I am not completely sure what I will do with my doctorate in geography. I see my work as a process of discovering how geography as a discipline can benefit Anishinaabeg people, communities, and understandings that come about as we continue to live, evolve, and grow.
For Indigenous students interested in studying geography, I believe that they can offer a different worldview that is sorely needed in the context of the academy. Indigenous students are powerful, strong, and beautiful. I would be happy to support Indigenous students who are interested in pursuing this discipline and would do anything I could to encourage them in their study. Support is key, and if there is a way for me to be helpful, I would be glad to do that.