Brian Thom

Brian Thom
Associate Professor and Provost’s Engaged Scholar

On sabbatical 2024

Office: Cornett B244

PhD McGill

Area of expertise

Cultural anthropology, Indigenous legal orders and land rights; ethnographic mapping; space and place; Coast Salish

Dr. Thom’s research focus is on the political, social and cultural processes that surround Indigenous people's efforts to resolve Aboriginal title and rights claims and establish self-government. The research is community-driven and politically engaged in matters of contemporary social significance.  His written work explores the interplay of culture, power and colonial discourses in land claims negotiations, and examines the political and ontological challenges for Indigenous people engaged with institutions of the state.

Brian Thom is profiled on Wikipedia, and maintains a website of his writing and other work.

Dr. Brian Thom answers the question "What is Anthropology" for the People, Past, and Place podcast, 


  • Ethnographic mapping - IN THE NEWS...
  • Place, place names, political ontology
  • Aboriginal rights, title and governance
  • Modern-day treaty negotiations
  • Indigenous legal orders
  • Applying anthropology to public policy
  • Indigenous peoples, Coast Salish


Spring and Fall 2023

Fall 2023

  • LAW 450I: Indigenous Field Study Level ll
  • LAW 107I: Transsystemic Property Law

Spring 2023

  • ANTH 460/520A Ethnographic Mapping and Indigenous Cartographies
  • ANTH 499 Honours Seminar

Current projects

Indigenous Legal Orders

Working with Indigenous legal scholar Dr Sarah Morales in UVic's Faculty of Law, Dr Thom has an ongoing project on Coast Salish legal orders, and their entanglements with Canadian law.  One of the central contributions of this work is to develop a framework for ethnographic methods -- which attend culturally and histroically to a broad range of discourse, practice, and social and political structure -- to the emerging scholarship on Indigenous law in Canada.  The work is attuned to practical application of these entangled legal orders to further empower Indigenous communities. Students participating in fieldschools through UVic's new JD/JID program are an important part of this work.

Indigenizing Municipal Land Use Plans

Working collaboratively with the WSANEC Leadership Council and the District of Saanich, Dr. Thom has an ongoing, award-winning project to centre Indigenous priorities, values, and goals into municipal land use planning. The seaside community of Cordova Bay has been the centre of this work, where the protection of ancetral sites, and the goal of making the are welcoming to Indigneous peoples have emerged as key themes.

Ethnographic Mapping and Indigenous Cartography

Brian Thom founded and directs UVic’s Ethnographic Mapping Lab.

Dr. Thom’s ongoing work in mapping deploys ethnographic sensibilities to cartographic projects that are socially and politically powerful, particularly in support of Indigenous peoples title, rights and governance, and in promoting Indigenous place-based knowledge. Dr Thom primarily works with Google’s geo-tools (Google Earth, Google MyMaps, Google Earth Engine, Google Maps, etc) to leverage their powerful visualization framework with their highly accessible, low barriers workflows. Through these engagements, the research works to better reflect indigenous territoriality, land tenure, and senses of and attachments to place.

Co-management, Conservation and National Parks

Dr. Thom has long been involved in working with Indigenous communities working to implement cooperative management and shared decision-making frameworks for conservation, resource development and land planning.  He is currently co-investigator on the FRSC-funded Centre for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives (CICADA, Colin Scott, McGill, PI), coordinating the thematic research axis on Indigenous Community Mapping. 

Brian Thom is a Senior Researcher on the SSHRC Partnership Grant project Conservation as Reconcilation, a 7-year program of work by Indigenous thought leaders, organizations, youth, elders alongside scholars and conservation agencies to support Indigenous-led conservation in Canada. 

Dr. Thom has supported the Hul'q'umi'num' Lands and Resources Society in their work with Parks Canada in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.  


Commemorating Indigenous Landscapes

Dr. Thom has several ongoing collaborations with Coast Salish communities to commemorate, celebrate and make visible cultural landscapes that have been threatened or impacted by urban development, which these communities have chosen to share with the larger public.  These projects have critical dimensions of engaging with publics – from school children to municipal planners – who can benefit from careful and sensitive anthropological lenses that at once challenge ongoing colonial legacies, and appreciate and foreground Indigenous ways of knowing and being.  The Commemorating Ye’yumnuts project with Cowichan Tribes is one of these projects, which has a website that provides resources for teachers working to incorporate Indigenous values and knowledge through BC’s new curriculum.

First Nations Governance and Food Security

Dr Thom is leading research the qualitative research program of the CIHR-funded project Pulling Together For Health: Food Security and First Nations (Malek Batel, UdM, Principle Investigator).  This multi-year project examines the strategies and outcomes of First Nations communities’ work to incorporate food security into Indigenous rights and governance recognition agreements.  This work draws on the community-generated hypothesis that the implementation of Aboriginal and treaty rights, and establishment of successful self-governance frameworks are key to re-establishing food security, and seeks to highlight best practices in this critical but largely unstudied social determinate of community health and well-being.

Research Networks

  • Brian Thom is a member of the Montréal-based Centre for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives where he works with Hul’q’umi’nun’ community partners [LINK] and is co-lead of the Community Mapping axis [LINK].
  • Brian Thom is a member of the Justice and Indigenous Peoples Rights (JUSTIP) International Research Network where he co-leads the axis on Indigenous peoples development, spatial, and environmental justice [LINK].
  • Brian Thom is a Senior Researcher in the Conservation as Reconcilation network on Indigenous-led conservation.

Selected publications

Articles and chapters

“Brian Thom on Google Scholar

Recent Graduate Student Theses

Recent Graduate Student Theses