Niiyokamigaabaw Deondre Smiles

Niiyokamigaabaw Deondre Smiles
Assistant Professor
Critical Indigenous geographies; human-environmental interaction; political ecology; tribal cultural resource preservation
Office: DTB B306

PhD (Ohio State University, USA)

Area of expertise

Critical Indigenous geographies; human-environmental interaction; political ecology; tribal cultural resource preservation

I am Black/Ojibwe/settler, and am a citizen of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. My research interests are multifaceted, including Indigenous geographies/epistemologies, human-environmental interaction, political ecology, and tribal cultural resource preservation/protection. I’ve served in a variety of leadership roles in the Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers (AAG); I am also a member of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), and the Canadian Association of Geographers. (CAG). I also serve as a member of the editorial board of the journal Native American and Indigenous Studies.

I’m the PI of the Geographic Indigenous Futures Collaboratory here at UVic Geography, a research group that focuses on geographic-based approaches to issues facing Indigenous communities, from issues related to climate change, to issues of politics and sovereignty.

Prospective Graduate Students


My current research centers around investigating 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), with a focus 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.

 Other academic interests of mine include geographies of outer space, historical geographies, research ethics with Indigenous communities, and interdisciplinary work–I have collaborated with scholars in fields such as rhetoric, linguistics, history, and quantitative social science.

If you are interested in working with me as a graduate student, please visit this site to find out the most up-to-date information.


I enjoy teaching and view it as an essential part of my job. In my teaching experience, I make sure to include Indigenous perspectives in my lectures and curricula. As an Indigenous academic, it is important for me to teach material that brings Indigenous viewpoints into the classroom--this often means that I feature prominently in my classes works written by fellow Indigenous people, about Indigenous people. For any Indigenous-identifying students in my classes, this allows them to see that Indigenous perspectives have a place in the classroom and in the academy. For non-Indigenous students, this opens up their eyes and minds to a wealth of perspectives and worldviews that they may not ordinarily be exposed to, especially in the context of the United States and Canada. This furthermore challenges them to step outside of their comfort zones and to examine how they think about politics, environment, and space. I view this work as being essential to making space for Indigenous thought in academia, a goal to which I am deeply committed.

I regularly teach the following classes:

GEOG 211—Political and Economic Geography

GEOG 391--Topics in Geography (Indigenous Geographies)

GEOG 491--Advanced Topics in Geography (Indigenous Environmental Activism)


A full list of my publications can be found here: