About Me and My Research
Jessica Smith (Gidagaakoons) is a proud member of Sovereign Bodies Institutes Survivor Leadership Council and is a current SBI intern. She is a proud two-spirit member of the Bois Forte Band of The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Jessica is a Legal Studies and First Nations Studies student at The University of Wisconsin-Superior and is a McNair Scholar doing research on Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. She received her Associates of Science degree in Law Enforcement from Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in 2008, and is in her senior year at UWS, where she is a Dean's List Student and has received multiple UW Foundation Scholarships, and received the Justice Service Award from the Criminal Justice/Legal Studies Program for her dedication to MMIP. After she graduates she plans on going to grad school to get her Masters in Legal Studies in Indigenous Peoples Law. She is a dedicated activist and advocate for social and systemic change, and is committed to helping her people by using her experiences and trauma to fight for justice, the safety, wellbeing and equality of Indigenous people.
Jessica is a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Cultural healing is a journey for Jessica, and doing this research, making these connections with all of the strong warriors featured in this report has been an amazing part of her journey. Jessica is an avid dreamcatcher maker, and uses dreamcatcher making as a way of therapy. The dreamcatchers pictured in this report were made for the interview participants as a way to keep culture in the research and to remain culturally grounded throughout the process. Research is a form of cultural healing, all too often our stories are told by others, so by taking back our voices and using them to educate others is a form of decolonization. Living and walking in your truth is medicine, Indigenous knowledge is power, turning pain into power is a beautiful thing.
"Being a two-spirit Indigenous woman, we are often an invisible population within an invisible population. Especially in the data, so taking back that space that we have been historically pushed out of is one of my life goals. To decolonize research and to do it in a healing and nonretraumatizing way.
She surveyed 35 Indigenous people across the United States and Canada. She also interviewed 12 people from various aspects of life and different areas ranging from California to New York to Minnesota, and all the way to British Columbia and Manitoba, Canada. The people interviewed were women, men, and two-spirit individuals. The purpose of this research is to get a sense of how survivors feel about their experiences and the availability of services that are accessible to them, with a focus on cultural healing, trauma-informed care, grassroots organizations, and survivor leadership. Also, taking the data and responses from the survey and finding the needs that survivors and problematic issues Indigenous people are facing, and turning around by providing them with resources and people who can help within the same study. By introducing them to these grassroots and non-profit organizations which the majority of people within the survey stated they feel more comfortable working with. Some federally funded work and advocacy are highlighted too because some of the survey respondents and even people who didn’t respond to the survey but might be reading the report could really benefit from some of these services. As a survivor of human trafficking, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault myself, and as a researcher of these issues, I have found that this type of literature is very much needed to raise the voices of not only the people who have been silenced, but those warriors who are fighting for justice within our reservations, our cities, our states, and across Canada and Latin America.
Most of the people interviewed are survivors who publicly identify as a survivor and all are very active in their survivor leadership roles within their communities and four of the people interviewed are serving on the Survivor Leadership Council of Sovereign Bodies Institute along with the researcher. Areas of work represented in interviews include Minnesota’s Safe Harbor Northeast Regional Navigator, a sex trafficking coordinator for the National Sex Trafficking in Indian Country grant by The Office of Violence Against Women, a case manager working with commercially sexually exploited children in California, a Tribal representative who has many years of law enforcement experience, who is also serving on the task force for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Minnesota, the Executive Director of Sovereign Bodies Institute which is home of the national database for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People, the founder of Urban Indigenous Collective and co-founder of ShockTalk, a traditional woman healer, multiple grassroots activists, a chemical dependency health and marriage counselor who advocates for sexually abused men and boys and two-spirit individuals, and a powerful survivor leader from Canada that who has fought for Indigenous rights, speaking out against trafficking and violence against Indigenous people in Canada.