Welcome! This guide is intended to provide an overview of indigenous knowledge and starting points for exploring these knowledges by geography, format of materials, or theme. We expect this guide to be a continual work in progress as new information, community needs, and our own understandings of these issues evolve.
This guide intentionally centers materials created by indigenous peoples. Some resources from our archival collections or other databases contain valuable documents by indigenous peoples among other documents authored by settler colonialists, colonizing governments, or non-indigenous scholars. We make note of resources like this wherever possible.
Based on our geographic location in Colorado, we highlight materials from the indigenous peoples of these lands, including resources held by our library and archival collections at CU Boulder. We also recognize that certain issues are experienced by many indigenous groups, and we share resources as starting points for exploring these issues and peoples within North America. We welcome feedback and suggestions from the community.
There are many definitions of indigenous knowledge, sometimes called traditional knowledge. Here are two:
“Local and indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings. For rural and indigenous peoples, local knowledge informs decision-making about fundamental aspects of day-to-day life. This knowledge is integral to a cultural complex that also encompasses language, systems of classification, resource use practices, social interactions, ritual and spirituality. These unique ways of knowing are important facets of the world’s cultural diversity, and provide a foundation for locally-appropriate sustainable development.” -- “Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems,” UNESCO”
“Traditional Indigenous knowledge can be defined as a network of knowledges, beliefs, and traditions intended to preserve, communicate, and contextualize Indigenous relationships with culture and landscape over time...they include: oral narratives that recount human histories; cosmological observations and modes of reckoning time; symbolic and decorative modes of communication; techniques for planting and harvesting; hunting and gathering skills; specialized understandings of local ecosystems; and the manufacture of specialized tools and technologies...” -- Margaret Bruchac (Abenaki), Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, “Indigenous and Traditional Knowledge,” UNESCO”
We are grateful for the campus community members and libraries colleagues who have contributed to this guide. We would like to especially thank Angelica Lawson, Natasha Myhal, Sheila Goff, and members of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies Board for providing thoughtful and constructive feedback.
We honor and acknowledge that the University of Colorado’s four campuses are on the traditional territories and ancestral homelands of the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Ute, Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pueblo and Shoshone Nations. Further, we acknowledge the 48 contemporary tribal nations historically tied to the lands that comprise what is now called Colorado.
Acknowledging that we live in the homelands of Indigenous peoples recognizes the original stewards of these lands and their legacies. With this land acknowledgment, we celebrate the many contributions of Native peoples to the fields of medicine, mathematics, government and military service, arts, literature, engineering and more. We also recognize the sophisticated and intricate knowledge systems Indigenous peoples have developed in relationship to their lands.
We recognize and affirm the ties these nations have to their traditional homelands and the many Indigenous people who thrive in this place, alive and strong. We also acknowledge the painful history of ill treatment and forced removal that has had a profoundly negative impact on Native nations.
We respect the many diverse Indigenous peoples still connected to this land. We honor them and thank the indigenous ancestors of this place. The University of Colorado pledges to provide educational opportunities for Native students, faculty and staff and advance our mission to understand the history and contemporary lives of Native peoples.
Read more about CU's land acknowledgement.