Global Indigenous Knowledge Certificate

Why study Global Indigenous Knowledge?

If you want to understand Indigenous issues in global context, this certificate is for you.

In the 21st century, understanding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is crucial for developing globalized competence. This certificate helps students address global responsibilities, responds to the current climate in the US, and meets the need for more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) curricular programming at the university.

This certificate includes courses that represent tribal and indigenous perspectives from Africa, the Americas, and across the globe. At 16 credits, the Global Indigenous Knowledge certificate addresses many DEI concerns that you can apply to a wide range of interests and draw on in many careers, from the environment to business, human services, politics, and more.

Empire State University offers a selection of courses that address Indigenous experiences from the US, Latin America/LatinX, Africa/African Diaspora, Oceania, Asia as well as a University at Buffalo/Empire State University international field school experience in Tanzania. We house a growing collection of Oral Histories.

Gain credit for non-western knowledge

Offering recognition of indigenous knowledge is part of the SUNY Empire mission to further social justice. With SUNY Empire’s robust prior learning assessment (PLA) process, you can earn college credit for your expertise about your culture and community. The PLA provides unique opportunities for students to formulate, define, critique, and articulate the Indigenous knowledge they already have and be awarded credit – so if you have already learned Indigenous knowledge from your family and community, this certificate holds special value.

No matter where you start, find a way through PLA

If you have some college credit but didn’t earn an associate degree, or even if you’re brand new to a university, your prior knowledge can shorten the path to a bachelor’s degree. If you already earned an associate degree (from a Tribal College or elsewhere), you may be able to earn a bachelor's degree in just one year! Below are examples of the paths you can take that award you for your Indigenous knowledge.

The following infographics demonstrate two ways a student can utilize the GIK certificate as part of a bachelor's degree: 1) the "continuing student" who has an associate's degree and 2) the "transfer student" who does not.

So what is it, anyway?

Global Indigenous Knowledge meets pressing social needs and labor market needs. Based on current global racial tensions, including issues in the United States that plague our communities and school systems, we have a moral obligation to actively encourage cross-cultural discussions about race, ethnicity, and privilege in historical and contemporary contexts. Indigenous studies is part of this conversation. Our home state of New York has many reservations and native territories whose issues are closely tied to Indigenous concerns throughout the US and abroad (e.g., social injustices, loss of language and identity, ecological degradation, climate change, and colonization.)

The Global Indigenous Knowledge certificate will:

  • Enhance the knowledge base of professionals working directly or indirectly with Indigenous peoples or Indigenous knowledge
  • Develop skills that are beneficial in any job
  • Introduce students to new career options

Skills and cultural competencies such as cross-cultural communication play a significant role in daily interactions with the public and co-workers. They are no longer optional, but a necessity in almost all careers and jobs today, from domestic multicultural groups to the international arena. Businesses, social service agencies, health care providers, educational institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other occupational settings are all under pressure to recognize and appreciate the role that cross-cultural communication plays in achieving their goals.

Educational outcomes:

  • Awareness of cultural, spiritual, economic, geographic and political factors that shape global Indigenous knowledge and its acquisition
  • Understanding of Indigenous-related terms, concepts, theoretical and methodological foundations; of legal, regulatory, and economic concepts affecting the spread of said knowledge; of treatment standards for indigenous peoples globally; and of the relation of said knowledge to ethical, cross-cultural principles
  • Ability to conduct research using primary and secondary information resources; to survey, document, and communicate Indigenous knowledge; and to interpret the meaning of said knowledge to a larger audience

The Global Indigenous Knowledge certificate provides the student multicultural awareness from an Indigenous perspective, and an appreciation of ancestral knowledge rooted in the hearts of native peoples around the world.


To meet the needs of multiple communities in national and international contexts, the certificate is adaptable to diverse Indigenous peoples from around the world. Students will take the following courses:

  • Introduction to Global Indigenous Knowledge and Thought
  • Contextualizing Indigenous Peoples: A Global Perspective OR Contemporary Issues, Resilience, and Transformation in Indigenous Knowledge
  • INDG-3025 Writing the Indigenous Knowledge PLA OR Approved Elective
  • INDG Capstone in Global Indigenous Knowledge: Applied Learning

Electives include:

  • INDG-2010 Introduction to Native American Studies
  • HIST-2015 Native American Histories & Cultures: Introduction
  • INDG-3015 First Peoples of North America
  • INDG-3005 Anishinaabe Studies: History, Culture, & the Environment
  • INDG-3020 Living History: Little Bighorn from a Cheyenne Perspective
  • LITR-3080 Native American Literature
  • ARTS-3080 Arts of Native North America
  • HIST-3335 Mesoamerican Art & History Aztec & Maya Civilizations
  • HIST-3435 Southeastern Native History & Culture
  • INDG-4010 Native American Plants: Decolonizing Indigenous Knowledge
  • INDG-4015 Native American Women's Studies
  • INDG-4020 Public History: The Native American Experience
  • INDG-4025 Roots & Routes of African Diaspora Resistance
  • INMS-4025 Endangered Languages
  • ARTS-4040 Indigenous Knowledge in Art
  • UE-496 Buffalo Tanzania Project

How you will learn

The GIK offers a variety of formats, including online, blended, and residency models; themes include environmental sustainability, spirituality, oral histories, social justice, art and culture, as well as native-focused issues and solutions.

Enroll in the Certificate Program for Global Indigenous Knowledge

Currently enrolled students: Submit the online Degree Add/Change Request Form, select “add” then select “CUG” for degree and choose “Global Indigenous Knowledge” for program.

Not Currently Enrolled?

If you are not currently enrolled, you can still register for a certificate program. Apply onlinefor the certificate program. Applicants to the undergraduate certificates are required to fulfill the same admissions requirements as the associate and bachelor’s degrees.

Certificate students who are concurrently enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program are eligible to apply for federal financial aid, while those students who enroll only in the certificate program are not.

Learn More

To learn more about how to incorporate the GIK Certificate into your degree program, please talk with your mentor and/or contact the Coordinator of Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Studies, Cindy Conaway.

Indigenous Studies Resources