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Niiyokamigaabaw Deondre Smiles

Indigenous geographer & Assistant Professor

 

I’m an Indigenous geographer whose research interests lie at the intersection of several fields, including critical Indigenous geographies, human-environment interactions, political ecology, tribal cultural resource preservation, and science and technology studies. My current research centers on investigating the political ecologies and political economies of Indigenous death and Indigenous relationships to space in general. I work to understand how the settler colonial state conceives of the political agency of Indigenous death and investigate connections between ‘traditional’ cultural resource management, such as burial grounds/site protection and preservation, and protection of the living environment, including more-than-human kin (animals, plants, water). I argue these processes ultimately shed light on how new political possibilities can be created for all living things, humans and more-than-human alike, in an era of climate crisis. This work is part of a broader years-long research agenda focusing on Indigenous/settler contestations over Indigenous remains and burial grounds. The primary geographic focus of my work centers on North America, particularly the Salish Sea region (BC/Washington) as well as Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, but I am also keenly interested in discovering the ways in which all of these processes play out in global contexts.

1. What advice do you have for early career researchers looking to establish themselves in the field of geography?

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Don't be afraid to seek out opportunities in your area of interest--meet folks! Network! Take opportunities as they come up--you'll never know where they might lead!

2. What skills do you wish you learned during your education that would have helped you in the job market today?

I wish I would have learned more about the 'silent curriculum'--all of the things that you're expected to know when you're on the job market or beginning a job. It would have saved me a ton of time getting myself established!

 

3. What motivated you to pursue a career in geography?

I grew up with a love of maps, and learning about people, places, and relationships to space! Geography was a subject that I naturally excelled in both grade school and university, and so when it came time to decide what I wanted to do, it was an easy choice!

 

4. Could you share a significant moment or project from your early career that had a lasting impact on your research?

When I was doing my dissertation research, I had an interaction in a community I was working in that changed my outlook--I had visited to do research on burial site disturbances, but the community showed me that their methods of preventing disturbances of burial sites also extended to protecting the living environment--it pointed towards a different understanding of lifecycles and relationships to space, and has pointed me on the direction I'm taking now in my work!

5. What advice do you have for early career researchers navigating the challenges of academia and research?

Make sure to take time to take care of yourself--publishing and research and relationship building are important, but taking care of your mind, body and spirit are also important--taking time to recharge can help you stay focused and avoid burnout.

6. Can you share examples of how your research findings have been applied in real-world situations or policy-making?

My work on Indigenous geographies of outer space has been widely cited in popular media when it comes to reflections on how we engage with outer space exploration--really cool work!

7. Are there specific conferences, journals, or resources you recommend for staying updated with the latest trends and research in geography?

CAG and AAG are really good conferences to go to if you're able to--I also recommend reading journals like Geoforum, Dialogues in Human Geography, the Environment and Planning series, and the Canadian Geographer!

8. From your perspective, what do you think the future holds for the field of geography, especially concerning emerging technologies and methodologies?

I think that as we move further into the future, Indigenous perspectives will be viewed as more and more essential to understanding the environmental challenges that we face!

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Canadian Association of Geographers


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