Charles Menzies


Research Classification

Social sciences

Research Interests

Indigenous studies
Natural Resource Management
Maritime Anthropology
Western Europe
Ethnographic Film

Relevant 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

Indigenous students engaged (and/or interested) in community based research, decolonizing practices, and process that support Indigneous authority and jurisdiction are encouraged to connect with Professor Menzies to discuss potential applications to graduate study.  Settler students intersted in exploring the relations of power and inequality within contepmorary capitalist society and settler states as an ally to Indigenous sovereignty are also encouraged to connect with Professor Menzies to inquire about possiblities 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 (Jan 2008 - Nov 2019)
"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 (2010 - 2018)
GitxaaBa sovereignty: indigenous governance and industrial development (2017)

No abstract available.

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)

No abstract available.

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

No abstract available.



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