What is Indigenous Studies?

Indigenous Studies is an interdisciplinary field of study that centers the knowledges, priorities, aspirations and lived experiences of Indigenous peoples locally, nationally and internationally.

Our Mission

The mission of the Indigenous Studies Department at UB is to foster excellence in:

  • Indigenous-centered scholarship, research, and teaching at UB that is accountable and beneficial to the Haudenosaunee people of this territory. 
  • Multidisciplinary Indigenous-centered research and teaching that is accountable and beneficial to Indigenous nations, communities, and organizations in local, national and global contexts. 

The University at Buffalo (UB) is located on the traditional territories of the Onödowa'ga:' (Seneca Nation), one of the Six member nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora)—and is in close proximity to a majority of the federally recognized Indigenous nations in New York State. UB is also located in a cross-border region that is home to a vibrant urban Indigenous population, and is only a short distance from Six Nations of the Grand River, the largest First Nations community in Canada.

To translate the acknowledgement of our location on Haudenosaunee lands into meaningful action, UB’s Department of Indigenous Studies works to honor our obligations to the Indigenous nations and to the treaties of this territory. The department recognizes Indigenous nationhood and sovereignty as foundational in our approaches to building ethical and productive research relationships with Native peoples and organizations both here and beyond this region. We are deeply committed to supporting present and future generations of Indigenous students and scholars. The Department of Indigenous Studies promotes research, educational and outreach initiatives aligned with community priorities to ensure the continuity of Indigenous knowledge and languages, and the health and sustainability of Indigenous people, land and water.

  • Learn about Indigenous peoples from Indigenous people
  • Learn about Indigenous peoples from scholars who center the lived experiences of Indigenous people
  • Learn about the value and importance of Indigenous knowledge for all members of society
  • Learn about the specific ways Indigenous Studies works to dismantle systemic discrimination
  • Learn about how Indigenous Studies informs ways to build solidarity practices that can sustain good relations among people of diverse backgrounds
  • Learn about how Indigenous Studies informs ways to build unity in key areas of justice that include ending state violence and the protecting the wellbeing of our lands and waters for our future generations

Dispelling common misunderstandings about Indigenous peoples, knowledges and Indigenous Studies:

There are numerous myths and misconceptions that have shaped public understandings of Indigenous people over time. Among them is the notion that Native American people are simply gone and no longer exist. Another is that any remnants of knowledge associated with these long- vanished cultures is simplistic and primitive, and therefore of no value to modern life in the present or future. Work in the Department of Indigenous Studies seeks to dispel these and other longstanding fallacies. Our efforts to combat invisibility and erasure, and to promote accurate representations, center Indigenous authority and expertise in the production of knowledge about Indigenous peoples.

Indigenous Studies is more than just a topic or a unit within a single course. It is also more than an elective or area of concentration within established departments like anthropology or history. Indigenous Studies is an academic discipline in its own right and merits its own departmental home within institutions of higher education. Indigenous Studies consists of an ever -expanding body of accumulated, specialized knowledge with specific theories, concepts, research methods, modes of analysis, and areas of inquiry. Today, ever-growing numbers of Indigenous Studies scholars, researchers and students belong to numerous professional and academic associations including AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society), NATHPO (National Association of Tribal Preservation Officers), NNABA (National Native American Bar Association), AAIP (Association of American Indian Physicians), AILA (American Indian Library Association), NAFWS (Native American Fish and Wildlife Society), NAWAINC (Native American Water Association) and NAASA (Native American Arts Association) among others. Currently, NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Association) is the largest professional academic association with a membership of over 1000 Indigenous studies scholars and educators. 

A Home and a Hub

The Indigenous Studies Department is both a home and a hub of Indigenous research and teaching at UB. The duality of this “home and hub” structure acknowledges Indigenous Studies as an academic discipline in its own right, as well as a necessary component of all other areas of study. Our goal is to support Indigenous-centered research and teaching throughout and across the various schools and programs at our university, and to advance UB’s longstanding commitment to specialized scholarship in the field of Indigenous Studies. The departmental “home” for Indigenous Studies will also serve as a vital research and educational “hub” for scholars, students, staff, and community members within our region and at UB. The department’s focus on multidisciplinary Indigenous-centered research and teaching that is global, hemispheric, national, and local also prioritizes scholarship that is specific to the Indigenous territory upon which our institution operates.

Our home/hub structure also aims to contribute to Indigenous faculty and student retention and success. It is meant to provide Indigenous faculty and students with a locus of support on campus. It houses Indigenous staff dedicated to the wellbeing of Indigenous students. The Indigenous Studies Department will foster community building among Indigenous students and scholars on our campus, providing both space, services and opportunities for dialogue, interaction, and networking. 

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation $3.2M grant supports the creation of the department including the recruitment and retention faculty and Native American students as well as meaningful community engagement.

Read more about the Mellon grant