Instructor, Art History
School of Humanities
Art History
Faculty of Arts and Sciences

604.986.1911 ext. 2446
Fir Building, room FR 406C


PhD, Art History, Visual Art & Theory, University of British Columbia, 2007.

MA, History of Art, Williams College Graduate Program, 1998.

BA, Smith College, 1992.


Megan Smetzer (PhD, University of British Columbia, 2007) is an art historian who researches the circulation of Indigenous cultural belongings, primarily made by women, within and between Indigenous and settler communities along the Northwest Coast and beyond.

After earning degrees from Smith College, Williams College and the University of British Columbia, Smetzer held a Research Fellowship at the Canadian Museum of History. She taught at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Emily Carr University of Art and Design before joining the faculty at Capilano University. Along the way, Smetzer has collaborated with social practice artists on environmental art projects, as well as lectured and published extensively on Indigenous women's art practices.

Smetzer is deeply grateful to the Tlingit artists and elders from Lingít Aaní (currently known as Southeast Alaska) who have generously shared their knowledge and perspectives over many years. These relationships have contributed to Smetzer's recent book Painful Beauty: Tlingit Women, Beadwork, and the Art of Resilience, the first to be written on this topic.

As a settler scholar who focuses on the practices of Indigenous artists, I am committed to introducing students to a range of perspectives that engage with the discipline of art history.

Through classroom discussions, visits to museums, guest speakers, and thought provoking readings and online resources, I challenge students to think critically about the circulation of tangible cultural expressions.

Exploring how diverse artworks gain meaning within and between networks of people and across disciplinary, cultural, and geographic boundaries is central to understanding the power of images in our daily lives.

My research centers on the interplay between historical and contemporary Indigenous artwork, particularly that created by women.

I am particularly interested in the ways in which contemporary artists draw on community-based knowledge to unsettle the legacies of settler colonialism and foreground Indigenous beauty, resilience and power.


Smetzer, Megan A. Painful Beauty: Tlingit Women, Beadwork, and the Art of Resilience, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2021. Recipient of a 2020 Wyeth Foundation for American Art Publication Grant from the College Art Association.

Journal Articles

Smetzer, Megan A. "From Bolts to Bags: Transforming Cloth in 19th Century Tlingit Alaska,” Journal of Material Culture, vol. 19, no. 1 (March 2014): 59-73.

Smetzer, Megan A. "Tlingit Dance Collars and Octopus Bags: Embodying Power and Resistance,” American Indian Art Magazine, vol. 34, no. 1 (Winter 2008): 64-73.

Selected Book/Exhibition Catalogue Chapters

Smetzer, Megan A. "Portraits of Power: Depictions of 19th Century Northwest Coast Matriarchs" in Women, Aging and Art: A Crosscultural Anthology, Frima Fox Hofrichter and Midori Yoshimoto, eds. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021, 89-104.

Smetzer, Megan A. "Copper Seaweed and Woven Octopus Bags: Shgen George and the Art of Resilience" in Unsettling Native Art Histories on the Northwest Coast, Aldona Jonaitis and Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, eds. Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2020, 117-132.

Bunn-Marcuse, Kathryn and Megan A. Smetzer. "Working to Change the Tide: Women Artists on the Northwest Coast" in Hearts of Our People: Native American Women Artists, MN: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2019, 258-272.

Smetzer, Megan A. "Opening the Drawer: Unpacking Tlingit Beadwork in Museums and Beyond" in Sharing Our Knowledge, Sergei Kan and Steve Henrikson, eds. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015, 441-460.

Smetzer, Megan A. "Northwest Coast: Expressing Identity in an Intercultural World" in Native American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, NH: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College and Hanover: University Press of New England, 2011.

Smetzer, Megan A. "Beadwork for Basketry in 19th Century Tlingit Alaska" in Objects of Exchange: Social and Material Transformation on the Late-Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast, Aaron Glass, ed. New York: Bard Graduate Center, Distributed by New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.

Smetzer, Megan A. "From Ruffs to Regalia: Tlingit Dolls and the Embodiment of Identity" in Women and Things: Gendered Material Practices, 1750-1950, Maureen Daly Goggin and Beth Fowkes Tobin, eds. Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2009, 75-90.

Selected Book and Exhibition Reviews

Smetzer, Megan A. Review of “Sho Sho Esquiro: Doctrine of Discovery” at the Bill Reid Gallery. First American Art Magazine, 33 (Winter 2022): 88-89.

Smetzer, Megan A. "Àbadakone: Continuous Fire" Rachelle Dickenson, Greg A. Hill, Christine Lalonde, eds. in Racar: Revue d’art canadienne/Canadian Art Review, Fall 2021.

Smetzer, Megan A. "People Among the People: The Public Art of Susan Point" & "Susan Point: Spindle Whorl" in The Ormsby Review, February 21, 2021. https://ormsbyreview.com/2021/02/21/1039-smetzer-watt-arnold-thom-point/

Smetzer, Megan A. "Proud Raven, Panting Wolf: Carving Alaska’s New Deal Totem Parks,” by Emily Moore. Alaska History Journal, vol. 35, no. 2 (Fall 2020): 62-63.

Smetzer, Megan A. "Ellen Neel: The First Woman Totem Pole Carver" Legacy Gallery, UVic, Victoria, BC, April 7, 2017 in The Ormsby Review http://bcbooklook.com/2017/04/07/the-belated-legacy-of-kakasolas/

Smetzer, Megan A. "In the Spirit of the Ancestors: Contemporary Northwest Coast Art at the Burke Museum,” Robin K. Right and Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, eds. Pacific Northwest Quarterly vol. 105, no. 4: (Fall 2015): 200-201.

Smetzer, Megan A. "Northwest Coast Art: An Analysis of Form,” Bill Holm, 50th Anniversary Edition. Museum Anthropology vol. 9, no 1-2 (Fall 2015): 198-199.

Smetzer, Megan A. "Native Art of the Northwest Coast: A History of Changing Ideas,” Charlotte Townsend-Gault, Ki-ki-en, Jennifer Kramer, eds. Racar: Revue d’art canadienne/Canadian Art Review vol. 34, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 90-93.

Selected, Recent Lectures (Invited and Conference)


Rooted in the Land: Beadwork as an Expression of Sovereignty. Ferry Gallery lecture series, October 19.

Replacing Settler Spaces: The Transformational Power of Indigenous Public Art. Native American Art Studies Association Conference, Halifax NS, October 11-14. Session Co-Chair with Dr. Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse: New and Noteworthy on the Northwest Coast


Book Launch for Painful Beauty: Tlingit Women, Beadwork, and the Art of Resilience. Art History Speakers Series, Capilano University, September 22.      

Materializing Haa Aaní: Tlingit Beading Practices and the Land. Museum of Anthropology Visual and Material Research Seminar at UBC, March 17 and Anthropology Department Colloquium, University of Alaska Fairbanks, March 4.

History of Northwest Coast Art: Conversation with Tlingit Beader Janice Jackson. Totem Heritage Center, Ketchikan, Alaska, January 24.


Matrilineal Matters: Contemporary Tlingit Artists and Beading Legacies. Friends of Native Art, Seattle, WA, November 16.

Painful Beauty: Tlingit Women, Beadwork, and the Art of Resilience. Museum Midday program, Ketchikan Museums, Ketchikan, Alaska, September 2.

Additional Recent Activities

Acting Curator of Western Ethnology, Canadian Museum of History. September 2021 - June 2022.

Alumni Coordinator for the Otsego Institute for Native American Art, Cooperstown, NY, 2017 - present.

Juror for ChemiSTEAM Art Exhibit, Canadian Chemistry Conference & Exhibition, 2019 - 2021.

WNDW Gallerist for Emily Neufeld and Pegah Tabassinejad: Migrations, October 5-19, 2017.

Visiting Researcher Award, Bill Holm Center for the Study of Native Northwest Art, Seattle, WA, May 2012.

Canadian Museum of Civilization (now History) Research Fellowship, Gatineau, QC, June 2008 - May 2009.

Terra Foundation for the Arts pre-1940 American Art Fellowship, College Art Association, 2003-2004.

The Chester Dale Fellowship, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 2001-2002.

Luce/ACLS Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in American Art, 2000-2001.