Jessica Gidagaakoons Smith: Advocate and Indigenous Rights Activist


Jessica Gidagaakoons Smith



Community (affiliation):

Bois Forte Band of The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe

About this story: Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic Jessica has helped many people and families navigate through the justice system, while advocating for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives. The Covid-19 pandemic did not stop Jessica from doing the work to help her people in any way. In a way it actually helped her to build National networks and facilitate trainings virtually that may not have been possible otherwise. Jessica has received numerous awards for her strength, resilience, and leadership throughout the pandemic, including a justice service award, outstanding young advocate award, outstanding leadership award, McNair research excellence award, and was selected as the 2021-22 Newman Civic Fellow for her dedication to social justice.

Watch a video and read more about Jessica’s story:

Jessica Gidagaakoons Smith is a proud Two-Spirit member of the Bois Forte Band of The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. She is a member of the criminal justice honor society and is graduating with her BS in Legal Studies/ First Nations Studies in December 2021. She has just begun her masters program in Tribal Administration and Governance at the University of Minnesota Duluth. 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 passionate about raising survivor voices and Two-Spirit voices. She believes survivors and families should always come first. All the work Jessica does is for her people.

Special Acknowledgements

UW-Superior, Mcnair Scholar Program, Sovereign Bodies Institute, MN 350, MN State Arts Board, Campus Compact, Special Teachers and Mentors; Alli Willingham, Kat Werchouski, Nate LaCoursiere, Chantal Norgaard, Monte Stewart. Special Respect to all families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous people, the families I personally fight for: Tammy Soumi, Reyna Espinoza, Kim Balsimo, these women have inspired me so much with their strength and beauty to continue fighting through tragedy and loss of their loved ones. Families First always.