Jessica Gidagaakoons Smith
Survivor Leader, Two-Spirit warrior, Indigenous Scholar and researcher, MMIWG2S Legal Advocate, Indigenous Peoples Rights Activist, Water Protector, National speaker and trainer, Qualified Neutral in MN and WI
Jessica Smith (Gidagaakoons) is a 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. 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 recently received the Outstanding Young Advocate Award, The McNair Research Excellence Award, and The Outstanding Leadership Award from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She is the 2021-22 Newman Civic Fellow for UWS. In a few short months Jessica will be starting her masters program in Tribal Administration and Governance at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
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 these reports has been an amazing part of her journey. 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.
Jessica speaks nationally on issues Indigenous people face in systems of oppression. She provides trainings on historical and multi-generational trauma, trainings on how to keep our children safe on the internet because she was groomed into human trafficking via Facebook. She provides trainings on how agencies can better support Indigenous survivors of violence and how they can be inclusive of all Indigenous people, especially Two-Spirit people. She provides trainings on the risk factors and what to look for in human trafficking, how to protect our people against it. She speaks out against systems of oppression and actively works to decolonize these colonial systems of oppression. Jessica is also a qualified neutral in Minnesota and Wisconsin.