Charles Menzies


Research Classification

Research Interests

Indigenous studies
Natural Resource Management
Maritime Anthropology
Western Europe
Ethnographic Film

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.

Research Methodology

ethnographic film
traditional use and occupancy studies
Indigenous Studies
participant observation


Master's students
Any time / year round

Indigenous students engaged (and/or interested) in community based research, decolonizing practices, and process that support Indigenous authority and jurisdiction are encouraged to connect with Professor Menzies to discuss potential applications to graduate study.  Other students interested in exploring the relations of power and inequality within contemporary capitalist society and settler states as an ally to Indigenous sovereignty are also encouraged to connect with Professor Menzies to inquire about possibilities for graduate study.

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

"We just wanna warm some bellies": Food Not Bombs, anarchism, and recycling wasted food for protest (2017)

Within and against neoliberal systems Food Not Bombs serves hope. Food Not Bombs is a global anarchist-inspired (dis)organization that protests war—among other things—by giving away food for free. This dissertation is an ethnography about Food Not Bombs generally and the Vancouver chapter of Food Not Bombs in particular. It contributes to anthropologies of resistance, specifically those kinds of resistance practiced by Food Not Bombs and alter-globalization activists. Since Food Not Bombs offers a unique perspective on issues such as food-waste and hunger, I follow Food Not Bombs both in its critique of contemporary social life and in its production of alternative cultural forms. I begin by introducing the concepts direct action project and social movement (dis)organization to conceptually locate Food Not Bombs and groups like it. What is unique about direct action projects is that they explicitly weave together critique and hope; in other words, critique and hope are immanent in their direct action tactics. The manner of the critique itself (i.e. direct action) alleviates some of these harsh experiences of life under neoliberalism and, simultaneously, imagines/creates alternative cultural forms. Working with(in) global justice and alter-globalization movements, Food Not Bombs is a social movement (dis)organization, incorporating anarchistic logics and values to protest movements.Working in the interstices of capitalism, Food Not Bombs recovers wasted food, prepares it in collective kitchens using non-hierarchical organization, and serves it for free to anyone in want or need of it in public spaces. “We just wanna warm some bellies” not just in the moment but in such a way as to prefigure a world where people could freely feed themselves and help their neighbors do the same. Appadurai (2013) suggests a politics wherein we do not end with critique but with enacting a new vision for the future in the present. In this dissertation I describe Food Not Bombs as a direct action project that does the work of hope in the present by exploiting the cracks in capitalism and creatively producing new cultural forms as well as cooking up some food to share. In other words, “punk rock DIY belly feeding.”

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Producing materials, places and identities: A study of encounters in the Alberni Valley (2014)

This dissertation explores how Nuuchaanulth people living in Port Alberni, British Columbia articulate their sense of place and belonging in the Alberni Valley through tuupatii (ceremonial rights and privileges), genealogies, histories, material culture, and everyday engagement with the landscape. Port Alberni is a small town located in the Alberni Valley, a region rich in resources at the head of Barkley Sound on the Western coast of Vancouver Island. The Valley has been home to the Huupach’esat-h for thousands of years, but in the last 200 years has become a coming-together-place for Nuuchaanulth people more generally. As such, I explore how Nuuchaanulth people produce places within the Valley, engage with the haahuulthii (traditional chiefly territories) of the Huupach’esat-h First Nation, and experience ongoing colonialism. I examine how places are produced through encounters between peoples, histories, memories, supernatural phenomena, material artifacts, ceremonies, and forms of cultural knowledge. I develop the concept of encounter to interpret how places are produced through frictional interfaces. Drawing upon four-and-a-half years of ethnographic research, I have found that cultural practices, such as potlatching, addressing grief, knowing genealogies, and participating in oral traditions, have strengthened Nuuchaanulth communities in the Valley amidst entrenched capitalism and ongoing colonialism. I begin by using the concept of encounter to illustrate histories on the Westcoast generally, and the Alberni Valley more specifically. Next, I focus on particular encounters between families of the Huupach’esat-h, Hikuulthat-h, and Nash’asat-h to connect genealogies to production of knowledge and place. In the last three chapters, I use different cultural forms (e.g., dress, weaving, and ceremonial curtains) to illustrate how bodies and materials work together to produce understandings of place. My intention is to give a sense of the contemporary situation facing Huupach’esat-h people, who live amidst histories, animate materials, and ongoing colonialism in the Valley

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What keeps me here: gendered and generational perspectives on rural life and leaving in an Irish fishing locale (2011)

At the most fundamental level, this dissertation aims to promote a better understanding of rural youth emigration through consideration of the importance of ‘place’ in young people’s lives and life choices. Within this over-arching aim, I draw important linkages between the gendered dimensions of rural youth experience and gender disparities in patterns of rural youth out-migration. The out-migration of young people from rural regions is a selective and highly gendered process suggesting considerable differentiation in the way young men and women identify with and experience rural life. Based in the coastal community of Killybegs in the southwest corner of County Donegal, Ireland, this study examines gender differences in the ways in which local youth perceive, experience, and cope with life at home. This includes decisions to emigrate. Central to this endeavor is a theory of social positioning and recognition of the ways in which (social, cultural and symbolic) capital is embodied, gendered and context specific. An underlying objective of this research is to confront discourse which locates ‘stayers’ as a homogenous group of underachievers. To do this I demonstrate the importance of situating young people’s migration decisions in the context of their social groups and locations. I situate young people’s life-paths, not against a standardized set of push-pull factors, but within the everyday encounters and contexts of their own subjective experiences of place. I pay particular attention to the ways in which young people’s migration (and education) choices are differentially shaped by factors such as family norms, resources and values.Grounded in a conceptual framework informed by political economy, gender studies, migration studies and rural studies, this study addresses key questions regarding: 1) gender differences in young people’s perceptions and experiences of ‘staying on’ and leaving, 2) how ‘place’ influences migration decisions differently for young men and women, 3) how and why the social characteristics of migrants and non-migrants, including educational qualifications and social-class background, differ, and 4) how decisions to migrate are made, including weight of parental expectation and how youth emigration, and its local implications, are perceived by the sending community of teachers, parents and peers.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Being thorough: cumulative effects in resurgent GitxaaBa (2020)

Gitxaała Nation is currently under increasing social and political pressure from both the provincial and federal governments, as well as from multi-national natural resource corporations. In this region, decisions are being made today about our future energy sources, the ways we value people, places, and beings, and about whose voices matter. Based on data from ethnographic fieldwork and semi-structured interviews, conducted by the author with 19 Gitxaała harvesters, this thesis examines cumulative effects (CE), as perceived by interviewees, to two valued components identified by Gitxaała: food security and access to resources. Focussing on the case studies of red laver seaweed and salmon, I put these effects in conversation with the effects of ongoing settler colonialism and anthropogenic climate change. Taking a desire-centered approach to this project, I highlight Gitxaała management strategies by applying an Indigenous resurgence framework to the inquiry of local pathways of effects (PoE) and the influence of community action in altering these pathways. Through these analyses, I come to the following conclusions: Seaweed is largely affected by processes such as warming waters and a shorter winter season, caused by global climate change. Gitxaała harvesters’ capacity to pick seaweed is limited by their economic situation, and the time they are able to dedicate to managing and harvesting the seaweed as a result. Salmon is also impacted by anthropogenic climate change, while overfishing and habitat destruction create further challenges for local salmon populations. The exclusionist construction of the commercial fishing industry, and the diminishment of intergenerational knowledge transfer are two fundamental obstacles to harvesting Gitxaała is facing today. Supporting Gitxaała citizens’ intergenerational engagement in respectful harvesting, habitat monitoring and language development are key ways to alter PoEs to the territory and people today and into the future. Finally, I urge anthropologists to apply CE to studies of localized experiences of change and resurgent action in an effort to be maǥonsk, meaning “thorough”, in their research.

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How bear lost his tail : an Indigenous perspective on inclusive deliberative democratic theory as applied to the Canadian societal context (2018)

There exists a deep societal divide in Canada between Indigenous and settler societies. A divide which has continuously reared its head through demonstrations of violence, rage, or impassioned dismissal of the pursuit of justice for historical wrongs. As Indigenous voices for justice rise, Canada’s federal and provincial governments respond with policy and legislative change to address Indigenous unrest. Despite the introduction of numerous policies, legislation, and initiatives in an attempt to appease Indigenous voices, Canada has continuously failed to address the foundations of Indigenous calls for justice and has failed to address the disparities between Indigenous communities’ and non-Indigenous communities’ quality-of-life indicators, which in turn are a direct ramification of the injustices perpetuated against Indigenous peoples to which they demand recognition, recompense and reconciliation. When viewed through the lens of deliberative democratic theory the existence of deep societal division and the continual marginalization of particular social groups, appears counterintuitive when one considers the concentrated effort to promote their political inclusion, equality and publicity of Indigenous groups. In investigating this occurrence this thesis will conduct a review of Iris Marion Young’s model of deliberative democratic theory with a specific focus on Young’s four pillars of deliberative democratic theory for the pursuit of social justice, followed by an engagement with Frantz Fanon’s work on the psycho-afflictive disorders settler-colonial societies inflict and are reliant upon. By doing so this thesis will argue that settler colonialism creates, entrenches and makes invisible the systems which are responsible for the social delineations between us and them, between settler society and Indigenous societies, and between have and have nots. Further I argue that deliberative democratic theory, through its varied social justice mechanisms, is incapable of addressing the fundamental and structural mechanisms colonialism has created, which ensure the marginalization, disempowerment and dispossession of Indigenous peoples, systems on which the legitimacy of the colonial state relies. To overcome such shortfalls, Young’s pillar of ‘reasonableness’ must be actively pursued through a commitment and concrete action to unearth and challenge the foundations of settler-colonialism and to refute the divisionary policies on which the polity that is Canada has been built.

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GitxaaBa sovereignty: indigenous governance and industrial development (2017)

This paper discusses how Gitxaała governance and law inform perceptions of, and responses to, resource extraction and industrial development within laxyuup Gitxaała, the traditional territory of Gitxaała Nation. As argued, the Nation’s interest in maintaining its primary authority over decision making processes related to development is rooted in a greater desire for increased recognition and respect of its unextinguished rights and title—its Aboriginal sovereignty—under Canadian Law. Significantly, Gitxaała Nation's assertion of sovereignty is founded upon the continuation of a governance system intrinsically tied to the Nation's active engagement with the territory, and the harvest of the resources found therein. Gitxaała Nation's perceptions of, and responses to, development are therefore best understood from the vantage point of its desire to uphold Gitxaała laws (ayaawx), oral history (adawx), and concept of inheritance (gugwilx'ya'ansk) in the practices of territorial management. It is this relationship of interdependence between Gitxaała Nation and its traditional territory that forms the basis of the Nation’s understanding of what it means to be Gitxaała.

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Paths to sustainability: creating connections through place-based Indigenous knowledge (2017)

For most of humanity’s existence, a robust human-nature relationship was paramount. Any inherent benefits were clearly understood and respected. However, in the last 500 years of western history, religious dependence diminished in favour of a more rational and humanist approach and market economics rose in prominence. This evolution encouraged notions of cultural separation from nature that led to an emphasis on the individual, the expansion of private land ownership and the commodification of natural resources. These misguided beliefs then spread throughout the world during colonization. The result has been a mass degradation of the earth’s ecological health, alongside a strong decrease in the positive qualities of tradition and community life. Repair of the human-nature connection is urgent.This research demonstrates that Indigenous people living among us today who embody Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) can offer insights to heal this serious rift. They teach us that without honest human-nature relationships and a grounded existence in place, long-term prosperity for western civilization will be challenging. An Indigenous worldview demonstrates that place-based learning and the repair of community connections is imperative for healthy social-ecological systems. Nature’s importance must be regarded for its own sake, not just for the benefit of humans. Incorporating these principles into present-day society encourages more sustainable practices and helps to treat our common planet with respect. In addition, the act of receiving traditional wisdom from our Indigenous neighbours facilitates a reconciliation of the tragic legacies that endure from colonization. Without this fundamental healing, little long-term recovery of people and the land is likely.

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Eating Gitxaala, Being Gitxaala: Food and Cultural Security (2016)

In this thesis, I explore the significance of a territory-based food system to an Indigenous culture. In particular, I work to provide an understanding of the myriad of ways in which the Gitxaała food system and its related practices contain cultural ways of knowing and being that is specific to Gitxaała Nation, a First Nation located on the North coast of what is known today as British Columbia. The fieldwork for this thesis was conducted at a time when multiple economic projects are being proposed/pursued in Laxyuup Gitxaała; the perceived ways in which such projects will alter the territory and Gitxaała’s relationship with it have created a sense of fear among the Gitxaała people. Gitxaala food is used as the vehicle through which such fears for the future of Gitxaala Nation is discussed. Ultimately, this thesis examines how Gitxaala food reflects and reveals how Gitxaała people understand themselves as a unique Nation and differentiate themselves from others. I argue that the Gitxaała food system and all of its related practices acts as a method of cultural security.

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Regulatory Impacts on a Yup'ik Fish Camp in Southwest Alaska (2016)

Yup’ik fishers on the Nushagak River of Southwest Alaska harvest salmon for both subsistence and commercial purposes, however their cultural protocol and formal resource management principles are unrecognized by the State of Alaska. Drawing from two summers of ethnographic research and experience as an Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) anthropologist, I examine one state regulation preventing drift gillnetting for subsistence purposes. The analysis reveals that the Alaska Department of Fish & Game is currently preventing cultural adaptation on the Nushagak River despite Yup’ik communities maintaining sustainable harvest levels for millennia. Changes in river conditions, namely the location of sandbars and channels, in addition to warming water temperatures, necessitate the application of the traditional harvest method, drift gillnetting, to meet the harvest goals of Yup’ik fishers at the Lewis Point fish camp on the Nushagak River. The Alaska Board of Fisheries has maintained that drifting only be employed in the commercial fishery, not the subsistence fishery, despite policy dictating a subsistence priority over other consumptive uses. While failing to meet the subsistence priority codified in its own policy, the State of Alaska also fails to provide a meaningful role to the tribes in the decision-making domain of resource management. Yup’ik fishing is guided by a cultural ethos known as yuuyaraq, roughly translated to “the real way of life,” which provides a formal management institution that maintains continuity with the past while providing harvest protocol and principles for the present. The incorporation of Yup’ik intellectual traditions and cultural principles is necessary to provide the tribe a “meaningful role” in the natural resource management of Alaska.

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Encountering the K'i's A'ums: Reinterpretations of the Spirit Quest in Three 21st-Century Kwakwaka'wakw Narratives (2015)

This thesis examines three 21st-century Kwakwaka’wakw narratives that resonate withthe notion of the spirit quest. It focuses on the ways in which these narratives give voiceto reinterpretations of the spirit-quest typology in order to comment on contemporarycultural concerns. Unlike in most older Kwakwaka’wakw spirit-quest stories, theprotagonists of these narratives do not obtain supernatural items, prestigious names, orceremonial rights. Instead, the gifts they receive are faith in indigenous oral traditions andknowledge of Kwakwaka’wakw culture. By reinterpreting the spirit-quest typology inthis manner, the stories highlight the importance of faith and education for the continuedvitality of cultural transmission.

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Inscribed on the landscape : stories of stone traps and fishing in Laxyuup Gitxaala (2014)

This thesis examines the nature of an indigenous fishery on the northwest coast of British Columbia, within Gitxaała Nation`s territory. To investigate fishing practices, I analyze faunal assemblages from 16 habitation sites, map and describe two intertidal stone traps, and relate the results of which to Gitxaała traditional ecological knowledge. I first outline the social organization of fishing in Gitxaała territory and discuss Gitxaała ontology and the connection between family and place. I then discuss the technology and function behind the two intertidal stone traps. I examine archaeological patterning of fish abundances at the habitation sites through various quantitative methods, focusing on three sites associated with the intertidal stone traps. I then argue that Gitxaała traditional ecological knowledge is paramount in understanding and interpreting the archaeological record. The results of the study reveal a complex portrait of fishing within Gitxaała Territory. Faunal analysis data is contradictory to expectations of a connection between fish abundances and site size and typology. Faunal analysis also indicates that differences in mass harvest technologies such as intertidal stone traps reflects differences in use and target species. Gitxaała scholarship on fishing, use, and occupancy acts as an interpretive guide to the archaeological record in that it provides explanations to an otherwise complex data set. The results suggest that fishing practices are not prescribed simply by resource availability. Rather, fishing practices reflect complex cultural processes and decisions of Gitxaała leaders who maintained obligations of a reciprocal relationship between the human and animal world, fish production, and management of important ecosystems.

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Spinning wind into power: Industry and energy in Gitxaala Nation, British Columbia (2013)

Wind power currently represents the fastest growing renewable energy resource in the world. Disputes over siting, disparities in economic and community benefits, and perceptions of landscape change all surface with renewable energy projects. Recently, renewable energy projects in partnership with First Nations have spread throughout Canada, yet limited studies exist regarding First Nations and renewable energy projects. This research examines proposed wind farms in Gitxaała Nation, a First Nation located near Prince Rupert, on British Columbia’s North Coast. Gitxaała Nation has four wind projects proposed in their claimed traditional territory, including the Naikun Wind Farm, potentially Canada’s first offshore wind project. Based on three months of qualitative fieldwork in Prince Rupert, BC (May 2012-August 2012), this thesis examines wind turbine projects in the context of Gitxaała Nation’s experiences and explores the shifting terrain of renewable energy development in British Columbia. Twelve semi-structured interviews were conducted, paired with participant observation and numerous informal conversations. This thesis analyzes how wind turbine development in this context is intricately tied to (and viewed as) large-scale industrial development. For Gitxaała Nation, it is linked to the development of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. In exploring views surrounding wind power’s introduction, the research examines how wind turbine projects are understood and the factors influencing how they are viewed and either accepted or rejected. It raises questions regarding renewable energies in BC and their place with First Nations, and it begins to address whether renewable energy is viewed differently from conventional resource extraction projects. Additionally, this research evaluates the impacts of renewable energy projects on local communities while exploring whether such projects are desired by and/or beneficial to Gitxaała Nation.

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Getting to Know the Artist: Why Artists are Important Contributors to the Climate Change Coversation (2012)

Finding avenues of communication to get different members of society to commit to engage in personal actions to determine the outcome of climate change is of great concern and priority to all communicators. The academic literature suggests that research has demonstrated that in order to access a people’s desire to change is most successfully reached if they are given different alternatives and decision-making power in addition to addressing their emotions using images and the imagination.Art, as history has demonstrated when it engages in a dialogue with its viewer, has tremendous power to encourage people to reflect on their thoughts and actions, and can act as a catalyst for change. Art is also an intrinsic tool for human communication and education. The purpose of this research was to achieve a deeper understanding in the importance that art can play in engaging people in climate change action by delving in an analysis of the inquiry process of the artist.This research employs a qualitative methodology. One on one interviews were conducted with nine artists working in different artistic medium, but share the need to dialogue with their audience their concerns for the environment. Secondary source data was added by interviewing three scientists working in fields of study that concerned climate change issues.The research analysis gives insight into the importance of considering artists as key communicators when looking for effective strategies to educate, raise awareness and encourage pro-environmental action. The process of getting an idea and realizing it into an art piece that is to be viewed by an audience is directly connected to the artist’s participation and expressing issues of society, which climate change is. Even though further research with a larger segment of the artistic population may yield a more thorough approach, the results do suggests that finding solutions of engaging people in pro environmental action may consist in getting the communicators to create cross-over relationships between disciplines that includes the arts, and engaging in polymathic problem solving strategies that motivate different people to commit to actions and adaptive practices to reduce GHG and build a brighter future.

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GitxaaBa marine use planning : making indigenous jurisdiction in contemporary aboriginal-state relations (2012)

This thesis examines Gitxaała First Nation’s marine planning activities at the local and regional level as a part of the PNCIMA process. I focus on the process of creating a regional marine plan for the North Coast through an aggregate First Nations organization, the North Coast Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society (NCSFNSS). In this context, I ask how marine planning addresses Gitxaała peoples beliefs, knowledge, and approaches to marine governance, and how this process is related to contemporary aboriginal-state relations in Canada. The PNCIMA planning process involves a multi-level collaborative governance agreement that commits First Nations and the federal government to creating and implementing local marine use plans that outline community goals and strategies for implementing their aboriginal rights and managing their marine resources. Gitxaała marine planning is an effort to institute indigenous jurisdiction in their territory and manage their resources in a culturally and politically significant manner. However, at the regional level, Gitxaała marine planning – and marine planning for all North Coast First Nations more generally – is challenged and limited by state power and control over ocean and fisheries. This power shapes the way in which First Nations can participate in oceans governance and management, the PNCIMA process, and impacts the relationship between local First Nations communities. The result is the imposition and reification of Euro-American political structures and knowledge – such as aggregated political organization and scaled planning processes – on indigenous peoples who have for centuries organized themselves socially and politically in culturally meaningful ways and have fostered and maintained healthy marine ecosystems in their territories.

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