Sheryl Lightfoot

Sheryl Lightfoot (PhD – University of Minnesota, Political Science) is Anishinaabe, a citizen of the Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe, enrolled at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Baraga, Michigan. She is an associate professor in First Nations and Indigenous Studies and the Department of Political Science.

Sheryl is Canada Research Chair in Global Indigenous Rights and Politics. She holds a Master’s Degree from the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, with specialties in Foreign Policy and International Affairs as well as Economic and Community Development. She also has fifteen years’ volunteer and contract experience with a number of American Indian tribes and community-based organizations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, including nine years as Chair of the Board of the American Indian Policy Center, a research and advocacy group.

Her book, Global Indigenous Politics: A Subtle Revolution, was published in May 2016 by Routledge Press in their “Worlding Beyond the West” critical international relations book series.

Sheryl is currently engaged in a SSHRC-funded project, “The Politics of State Apologies to Indigenous Peoples,” a major multi-national comparative study of state apologies to Indigenous peoples.

Dr. Lightfoot will not be teaching any courses in 2017 Winter.


Sheryl’s research interests include global Indigenous peoples’ politics, Indigenous political theory, Indigenous diplomacy, Indigenous social movements, and critical international relations theory.

Her book, Global Indigenous Politics: A Subtle Revolution, is forthcoming in 2016 by Routledge Press. The book is based upon her PhD dissertation, which won the 2010 Best Dissertation Award in the Race, Ethnicity and Politics section of the American Political Science Association.

Sheryl is currently engaged in a SSHRC funded research project, “The Politics of State Apologies to Indigenous Peoples. She is conducting a comparative case study analysis of state apologies to Indigenous peoples in several countries, including Canada, the United States, Norway and New Zealand. Her study, which commenced in 2013, involves qualitative research on the evolution of apology and its after effects. Questions include: When and how are apologies issued from states to Indigenous peoples? What is their political purpose? Do such apologies represent a response by states to demands from Indigenous peoples, or are they a top-down, state-driven initiative? How do Indigenous leaders and activists view official state apologies and what are the gaps of understanding between them? What other policies (compensation or policy shifts) should accompany official state apologies in order to enhance Indigenous-state reconciliation?

Sheryl’s ongoing streams of research focus on how implementation of Indigenous peoples’ rights reshapes Indigenous-state relationships and shifts understandings of human rights, decolonization, equality, sovereignty and self-determination on the global level. Major projects include an interrogation of the principle of self-determination in Indigenous contexts and an examination of the politics of Indigenous rights movements vis-à-vis the implementation of Indigenous rights both domestically and on the global level.

Selected Publications

Global Indigenous Politics: A Subtle Revolution. Routledge (UK), 2016.

“Indigenous Mobilisation and Activism in the UN System,” in Routledge Handbook of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, edited by Damien Short and Corinne Lennox, 2016.

“Settler State Apologies to Indigenous Peoples: A Normative Framework and Comparative Assessment.” Native American and Indigenous Studies 2 (2015): 15-39.

“Marge Anderson: Restoring the Treaty Rights of the Mille Lacs Band,” in “Our Cause Will Ultimately Triumph” Profiles in American Indian Sovereignty, ed. Tim Alan Garrison (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2014), 143-156.

“Selective Endorsement without Intent to Implement: Indigenous Rights and the Anglosphere.” The International Journal of Human Rights 16 (2012): 100-122.

“Emerging Indigenous Rights Norms and ‘Over-Compliance’ in New Zealand and Canada.” Political Science 62 (2010): 84-104.

“Indigenous Rights in International Politics: The Case of ‘Over-Compliant’ Liberal States.” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 33 (2008): 83-104.

Wilkins, David E. and Sheryl Lightfoot, “Oaths of Office in Tribal Constitutions: Swearing Allegiance, but to Whom?” American Indian Quarterly 32 (2008): 389-411.