A Talk with Andrea L. Smith

Andrea Smith is a Cherokee intellectual, feminist, and anti-violence activist. Smith's work focuses on issues of violence against women of color and their communities, specifically Native American women.

Along with Nadine Naber, she co-founded INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence in 2000, and she plays a prominent role in its National Planning Committee. INCITE! is a national grassroots organization that engages in direct action and critical dialogue to end violence against women of color and their communities. Smith was also a founding member of the Boarding School Healing Project (BSHP). According to its website, the BSHP "seeks to document Native boarding school abuses so that Native communities can begin healing from boarding school abuses and demand justice." Smith has worked with Amnesty International as a Bunche Fellow, coordinating the research project on sexual violence and American Indian women. In 2005, Smith was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize "as a woman who works daily for peace" in recognition of her research and work regarding violence against women of color in the US.

Smith earned her bachelor's degree at Harvard University in Comparative Study of Religion, and her Masters of Divinity at the Union Theological Seminary in 1997. In 2002, she received her Ph.D. in History of Consciousness from UC Santa Cruz. Smith's Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide won the 2005 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award. She is currently a professor of American Culture and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI.

On February 22, 2008, Smith received a negative tenure recommendation from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan. This decision has attracted "an unusual degree of attention from scholars, both at Ann Arbor and nationally" and "prompted some to wage an online campaign saying the University's tenure evaluation process discriminates against women of color and interdisciplinary professors."

A statement issued by an anonymous group of students and faculty from the University of Michigan protesting the decision immediately began circulating via email and among feminist blogs. The statement refers to Smith as "one of the greatest indigenous feminist intellectuals of our time" and highlights Smith's relevance as both a scholar and social justice advocate, noting that as "a result of her work, scholars, social service providers, and community-based organizations throughout the United States have shifted from state-focused efforts to more systemic approaches for addressing violence against women." A Facebook group in support of Smith's tenure bid and online petition to University of Michigan provost Teresa Sullivan soon followed.


To view photos of our event, please click here. A new tab in your browser will open.
SimpleViewer requires JavaScript and the Flash Player. Get Flash.