Using Earth Observations to Build Knowledge and strengthen Communities

The Indigenous Peoples Pilot focuses on building relationships across NASA and indigenous communities through place-based remote sensing training, community engagement, and co-production of knowledge.

The Indigenous Peoples Pilot engages with indigenous communities to foster ethical and culturally relevant space for the use of Earth observations in monitoring, mapping, and managing natural and cultural resources. The pillars of this work include community engagement and the co-production of place-based remote sensing trainings specific to indigenous lands and territories. 

We aim to strengthen the relationships between NASA and indigenous communities through meetings and knowledge sharing activities, as well as co-developing a global indigenous geospatial community of practice through the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). Through dialogue and discussion focused on indigenous needs and priorities, our remote sensing trainings provide participants with the data and resources needed to address specific natural resource issues facing their lands.

Indigenous peoples training in classroom in 2019
Indigenous Peoples Pilot training at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Denver in June 2019

Geospatial Trainings

Through in-person and virtual workshops, the Indigenous Peoples Pilot provides place-based and culturally relevant approaches to the use of NASA Earth observations for ecological forecasting, water resources, disasters, and ocean and coastal applications.

These trainings are needs-based and begin with dialogue around the appropriate geospatial tools, themes, and techniques to improve the capacity within that community to use Earth observations. This includes the use of web-based and open-source software. Past trainings have provided lessons and hands-on exercises on topics such as: introduction to remote sensing, vegetation health and calculation of indices, land cover classification, accuracy assessment of maps, coastal and wetland mapping, drought and agricultural monitoring, and much more.

Trainings have been conducted on tribal lands in partnership with tribal natural resource management offices, regional tribal networks, tribal colleges, and other federal agencies. The Indigenous Peoples Pilot has worked with organizations such as the Navajo Nation, the Samish Indian Nation, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the Institutie of Tribal Environmental Professionals, Northwest Indian College, the United Tribes Technical College, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Branch of Geospatial Support to host these events.

[ TRAINING: An Introduction to Remote Sensing for Tribal Lands ]


Building Relationships

The Indigenous Peoples Pilot engages communities and builds relationships by attending and hosting meetings, conferences, and workshops centered around the indigenous geospatial community in the United States and globally. We host knowledge exchange workshops, convene conference sessions and town halls, and contribute to the growing community of practice around the indigenous geospatial community.

highlights include:
  • A knowledge exchange workshop held in collaboration with the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, which focused on building partnerships with NASA and the tribal nations, indigenous knowledge systems and "two-eyed" seeing, and future recommendations for the Indigenous Peoples Pilot.
  • Conference sessions held at the National Tribal GIS Conference, the Tribal Leaders Summit, the Society for Conservation GIS, and the National Adaptation Forum in partnership with NASA's Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP), NOAA, and the Olohana Foundation.
  • A key side-session held at the 2019 GEO Week ministerial Summit in partnership with Conservation International was the first indigenous-focused session in the history of GEO and included panelists from Kenya, Ecuador, Australia, and the United States. It focused on the importance of indigenous peoples to participate in GEO as well as emphasized how Earth observations could benefit indigenous communities.