Susan Sleeper-Smith

Position: Emerata Professor
Field: Native American History, Indigenous Women & Gender, Catholicism
Region: United States

My research explores history as a narrative structured by sites of encounter, where the interaction of diverse Indigenous people with settler colonists created new and ongoing processes of social and cultural change. My writing focuses on Native American women and their continued involvement in that process. My interest in Indigenous Studies stems from my research, teaching, and archival work as well as my involvement with the American Indian Center in Chicago. My mother was Sámi from Tromsø, Norway and her life has inspired my global approach to understanding the ongoing problems faced by Indigenous nations.     

Indigenous Prosperity and American Conquest: Indian Women in the Ohio River Valley, 1691-1792, published in 2018, follows five previously published university press books: Indian Women and French Men; New Faces of the Fur Trade; Contesting Knowledge; Rethinking the Fur Trade; and Why You Can’t Teach U.S. History Without American Indians. Violence in Indigenous Communities: Confronting the Past, Engaging the Present was published in 2021;a volume I co-authored with Professor Jeff Ostler (University of Oregon) and Professor Josh Reid (University of Washington).   I joined the Michigan State department of history in 1994, was promoted to full professor in 2008; served as Director of the CIC-American Indian Studies Consortium from 2008 to 2010; and was the Interim Director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry Library in Chicago in 2018. I retired from Michigan State in 2021 but continue to serve on the Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians and the editorial board of the Michigan Historical Review. I am presently a scholar-in-residence at the Newberry Library in Chicago where my current research focuses on the role that Indigenous women played in thwarting federal policies of forced removal and how their efforts led to Native survivance