Emily Macgillivray

Assistant Professor of Native American Studies

Emily Macgilliuray headshot
Office:Wheeler Hall 327
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Earned and Honorary Degrees

PhD, American Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
MA, Gender Studies, Queen's University, Kingston
BA, Gender Studies, Queen's University, Kingston


I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the northwest shore of Lake Superior. Despite having Scottish ancestors involved in the fur trade, I grew up mainly ignorant and uninterested in the area's local and regional history. I moved east for my undergraduate studies and attended Queen's University on Lake Ontario. It was during my time at Queen's that I became aware of the rich indigenous history of Lake Superior and the Great Lakes as a region. While taking gender studies classes with a strong social justice focus, I became increasingly interested in the region's past and how the past continues to effect the present.

I moved to Ann Arbor to attend University of Michigan to pursue my PhD (my first time not living on a Great Lake) and began thoroughly investigate my historical questions about how Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe women negotiated increased colonial settlement on both sides of the border in the Great Lakes. In particular, I examined how they influenced the flow of commerce through producing and distributing valuable trade goods and participated in legal conflicts and treaties that shaped the formation of borders and patterns of settlement in the region.

During my time at UM, I had the opportunity to become involved with multiple public history projects, including a fellowship at the Charles C. Wright Museum of African American History and contributing to the Mapping Slavery in Detroit website.

Why Northland?

Northland provides an opportunity to share my research on Lake Superior with students who are interested in learning about the lake from multiple disciplinary perspectives. At Northland I can expand the classroom to the multiple local museums in the region and to other important sites, including historic portage trails.


I teach a variety of classes that look at regional and transnational histories. For instance, I teach the Lake Superior Ojibwe class (NAS 160) and Wisconsin Indian Cultures, History and Contemporary Issues (NAS 212). I also teach Native American History and Experience (NAS 211) and am developing courses that focus on gender and indigeneity in North American Borderlands, Native women's activism, and the relationship between Native and African American communities.

I enjoy designing courses with a strong historical grounding that connect to present-day issues, from pipelines to border security to violence against indigenous women.


I'm interested in 18th and 19th century Native American history of the Great Lakes, and in particular the northern border between the United States and Canada. I'm particularly interested in the relationship between gender, settler colonialism, and the enforcement of borders in the Great Lakes and west into the prairies. My research also engages material and environmental sources to gain insights into the lives of women who authored few textual documents.

I'm also interest in public history. I'm fascinated by the ways historical events shape national narratives and ideologies. My research also investigates how multiple types of historic sites, including museums of various sizes, historical monuments and plaques, and national and state parks, construct national narratives and engage with Native American history.

Student Involvement

I love encouraging students to engage with public history, whether it's visiting local museums or historic sites , walking a portage trail that was traversed by Native peoples in the 18th century, or visiting a river that has cultural, political, and economic importance for Ojibwe peoples in the past and the present.

Northland also provides unique opportunities for students to be engaged with the museum at the Indigenous Cultures Center, and I look forward to supporting students as they design and curate exhibits.

I also look forward to introducing students to historical research by utilizing the region's local archives, like the Northern Great Lakes Visitor's Center.


When I'm not reading, writing, or teaching about Lake Superior and the Great Lakes, I try to be outside and enjoying all the amazing opportunities this region offers. I enjoy hiking, backpacking, and camping, whether it's along the Lake Superior shoreline or in the Chequamegon National Forest. When I have time for longer trips, I enjoy exploring Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the Minnesota north shore, and visiting my family throughout Ontario. Whenever possible during my travels, I'm also stopping into museums and checking out historic monuments.

I also enjoy cooking, and I often search for wild edibles. I particularly enjoy picking berries (and later turning them into pies). In the winter, I enjoy snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and I'm learning to snowboard.