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.
The University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado’s flagship university, honors and recognizes the many contributions of Indigenous peoples in our state. CU Boulder acknowledges that it is located on the traditional territories and ancestral homelands of the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Ute and many other Native American nations. Their forced removal from these territories has caused devastating and lasting impacts. While the University of Colorado Boulder can never undo or rectify the devastation wrought on Indigenous peoples, we commit to improving and enhancing engagement with Indigenous peoples and issues locally and globally.
We will do this by:
Read more about CU Boulder's land acknowledgement.
The content on this guide is available for sharing and reuse under the following Creative Commons license: CC BY-NC 4.0 Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International. This license requires that reusers give credit to the creator. It allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, for noncommercial purposes only. We appreciate attribution of our work of the creators whose work we reference. Thank you!