Kim-Ly Thompson’s commitment to community
It’s been seven years since Kim-Ly Thompson first began her research with British Columbia’s Gitga’at First Nation as an undergraduate student. After working with the North Coast Cetacean Society and as a data analyst with the territory’s Oceans and Lands department, she was inspired to take her research in the region further as a master’s student and was linked up with the University of Victoria’s Natalie Ban.
As an HQP on Ban’s MEOPAR-funded research project Investigating and Informing Indigenous Marine Monitoring and Management as a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, she’s spent the last two years addressing a gap in monitoring by connecting Indigenous knowledge and science as well as social and ecological monitoring with the goal of developing an Indigenous-led monitoring and modelling framework. Ban says, she’s been the project’s champion.
“It was really important to be doing work with the community but also understanding that I’m not a Gitga’at member, I don’t know the history—and so really who better to direct a project than Gitga’at people themselves if it has to do with their territory and their communities?” says Thompson. “It’s interesting to try to find where the skills of academic researchers can actually be of use to the community while also meeting academic needs.”
“It’s their home since time immemorial, long-standing doesn’t even cut it. The place is who they are and I feel lucky to be able to offer skills that I have, and that Natalie has as well, to help leverage the knowledge that comes from that connection— in order to help meet the needs of the nation itself.”
Along with Thompson, Ban’s project has hired local high school students to assist with community interviews, as well as a Gitga’at community coordinator, who Thompson credits as the person leading the way these days. They continue to share data and findings with various community organizations—like the Oceans and Lands Department, the Health Department and schools— to help inform conversations about stewardship, rights and titles, traditional foods and well-being.
Thompson’s next steps include pursuing her Ph.D. at Simon Fraser University, which will allow her to continue to expand her research, and connection, in the region. “It’s very much home at this point, and my second family is there,” she says. “And I feel a responsibility towards the community, as well as the territory because I know how much the community relies on a healthy territory for everything.”