Brian Thom

Brian Thom
Associate Professor and Honours Student Adviser

Accepting MA/PhD students

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

Anthropology Department Graduate Advisor

For enquiries regarding our Graduate Program please contact our Graduate Secretary, Jindra Belanger.

For other graduate student related queries, please use my graduate adviser email:


Fall 2022

Fall 2022


Spring 2023

Spring 2023


Current projects

Ethnographic Mapping and Indigenous Cartography

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

This project (funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, and grant from Google) -- examines ways in which ethnographic mapping has become socially and politically powerful, used by Indigenous peoples to support their title, rights and governance, and to promote Indigenous place-based knowledge within and between in communities.  To do this, the I-EMIC project embarks on a significant re-evaluation of how anthropologists collaborate with indigenous communities to co-create and mobilize knowledge using leading edge mapping technologies. The project draws on the widely available, affordable, and easy-to-use mapping technologies of Google Earth (and related software) to produce visualizations – embedded with sound, video, photos, and text on a detailed 3D globe – that better reflect indigenous territoriality, land tenure, and senses of and attachments to place. These methodologies and representations are being used for inter-generational knowledge transfer, public education, indigenous rights assertions, and in land and resource consultations.  Dr. Thom and his graduate students are undertaking four pilot projects in collaboration with Indigenous communities in British Columbia, and in the Russian Far East (Kamchatka), are developing extensive training resources for communities to use implement these methodologies and tools, and are critically examining the legacies of ethnographic mapping.

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.  He is also collaborator on a SSHRC-funded study A Global Political Ecology of Conservation Practice in Canada's National Parks (Robin Roth, U Guelph, PI) evaluating factors of success in collaborative management arrangements such as those between Parks Canada and First Nations in the Gulf Islands National Park reserve, and in tribally declared parks.

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. 


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 co-investigator with Benoit Éthier (UQAT) on the SSHRC Insight Develoment Grant-funded project (2018-2020) Territorialites et cartographies autochtones: etude comparative des productions cartographiques des Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok (Quebec) et des Coast Salish (Colombie Britannique) dans le contexte des revendications territoriales globales.  Their collaboration connects Coast Salish and Atikamekw communities involved in mapping their territories.

Selected publications

Articles and chapters

“Brian Thom on Google Scholar

  • 2020 - Addressing the Challenge of Overlapping Claims in Implementing the Vancouver Island (Douglas) Treaties. Anthropologica. 62(2):295-307 (31pgs).
  • 2020 - Encountering Indigenous Legal Orders in Canada. Oxford Handbook of Law and Anthropology. Marie-Claire Foblets, et al, eds. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Sarah Morales and Brian Thom (2020) The Principle of Sharing and the Shadow of Canadian Property Law.  Pp. 120-162 in Creating Indigenous Property: Power, Rights, and Relationships, edited by Angela Cameron, Sari Graben, and Val Napoleon.  Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

  • 2019 - Leveraging International Power: Private Property and the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Pp. 184-203 in Scales of Governance and Indigenous Peoples' Rights, edited by Jennifer Hays and Irène Bellier. Law and the Postcolonial: Ethics, Politics, and Economy Series, Routledge, London. ISBN 9781138944480

  • 2019 - Tirer parti du droit international: la propriété privée et les droits des peuples autochtones au Canada. Pp 195-216 in Les échelles de la gouvernance et des droits des peuples autochtones, Sous la direction de Irène Bellier et Jennifer Hays. Paris, L'Harmattan. ISBN 978-2-343-17978-0 
  • 2018 - Czaykowska-Higgins, Ewa, Deanna Daniels, Tim Kulchyski, Andy Paul, Brian Thom, S. Marlo Twance & Suzanne Urbanczyk.  Consultation, Relationship and Results in Community-Based Language Research. Bischoff, S. & C. Jany (eds.) Pp. 66-93. Perspectives on Language and Linguistics: Community-Based Research. Mouton de Gruyter: Berlin/New York. Google Books.
  • (2017) Entanglements in Coast Salish Ancestral Territories. Pp. 140-162 in Entangled Territorialities: Negotiating Indigenous Lands in Australia and Canada, Edited by Françoise Dussart and Sylvie Poirier. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

  • 2016 - Thom, Brian, Benedict Colombi and Tatiana Degai – Bringing Indigenous Kamchatka to Google Earth:  Collaborative Digital Mapping with Itelmen Peoples.  Sibirica. 15(3):1-30. (original) (open access version).
  • 2014 – Reframing Indigenous Territories: Private Property, Human Rights and Overlapping Claims.  American Indian Culture and Research Journal.  38(4):3-28. (open access version)
  • 2014 - Confusion sur les territoires autochtones au Canada. In Terres, territoires, ressources : Politiques, pratiques et droits des peuples autochtones, edited by Irène Bellier. Paris, L'Harmattan, pp. 89-106.
  • 2011 - Ecosystem Guide : a Hul'q'umi'num language guide to plants and animals of southern Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Salish Sea.  Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group: Ladysmith and Parks Canada, Sidney. (with BT contributions to HTG-authored work). LINK
  • 2010 - The Anathema of Aggregation: Towards 21st Century Self-Government in the Coast Salish World. Anthropologica. 52(1):33-48. LINK
  • 2009 - The Paradox of Boundaries in Coast Salish Territories . Cultural Geographies . 16(2):179-205. LINK

Recent Graduate Student Theses

Recent Graduate Student Theses