Invitation to FNSA Indigenous Feminism Series - Cherry Smiley

Invitation to FNSA Indigenous Feminism Series - Cherry Smiley

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FNSA Indigenous Feminism Series - Cherry Smiley

April 16th 7pm
1800 Terasen Cinema
SFU Harbour Centre
Register now!


Cherry Smiley, from the Nlaka'pamux (Thompson) and Dine' (Navajo) Nations, is an artist, Indigenous feminist activist, and prostitution abolitionist. A front line anti-violence worker and accomplished public speaker on sexualized colonial violence against Indigenous women and girls, Cherry is a co-founder of Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry. IWASI is an unfunded group of Indigenous women and girls that work toward ending prostitution and advocate for the restoration of traditional Indigenous beliefs and structures that value women and girls.

Currently completing a Masters of Fine Arts degree, her art practice is one that is deeply passionate and inherently political, grounded in her experiences as an Indigenous woman, radical feminist theory, and in the teachings handed down to her by her Elders. In 2013, Cherry received a Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case for her work in the interest of women's equality. In 2014, she exhibited Revolution Songs, an installation that focused on the experiences of prostituted women and women affected by prostitution.

The following was previously seen in the Aboriginal Supplement for SFU news January, 2014.

Cherry Smiley is working passionately to end violence against Aboriginal women and girls, and eliminate prostitution.

As a proud Nlaka’pamux (Thompson) and Dine’ (Navajo) woman, she doesn’t boast about her accomplishments. But she is coming to terms with the accolades she is receiving after winning the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Person’s Case. She is one of two youth recipients.

The awards celebrate the five women whose work led to the historic legal decision to have the word “person” declared to include both women and men. The award recognizes individuals who have shown similar courage and determination to significantly advance equality for women and girls in Canada.

A graduate student in SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Smiley hopes the award will serve as a platform to further her cause.

She is a frequent speaker at home and abroad on issues of violence against Aboriginal women and girls, prostitution and equality for women and girls.

She has volunteered with the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s shelter and with the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network. She also co-facilitated the Sisterwork program at the Urban Native Youth Association, which engages young Aboriginal women and girls in discussing violence, creating art and giving presentations to local communities.

In 2012 she co-founded Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry, a volunteer group working to educate the public about prostitution as an expression of colonialism and male violence. The group is also advocating for progressive social policies that will abolish prostitution.

Smiley, 30, didn’t start university until she was in her early ’20s, earning a BA in sociology and anthropology.

“At the end of that I was introduced to feminist theory and gained a vocabulary to explain the circumstances of my life as an Aboriginal woman, and the issues that have happened to me and my family,” she says.

She also began to realize the power that art can have in creating social change. She enrolled in Emily Carr University, where she studied photography and video.

At SFU, she is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts with the intention of continuing on to a PhD and a career as a fine arts professor.

“I’ve only had two Aboriginal professors and I remember what an amazing experience that was,” she says, noting that academia offers more opportunities to share her messages about equality for women and girls.

Posted on March 23, 2014