Center for Indigenous Research, Science, and Technology (C-FIRST)


The Indigenous Geographies Working Group studies the continually unfolding relationship between Indigenous peoples and their environment


About the Working Group

The Indigenous Geographies Working Group studies the continually unfolding relationship between Indigenous peoples and their environment through collaborative research efforts exploring topics related to land and resource management, the impacts of global climate change, the political struggles over places and landscapes, and the exercise of self-determination by Indigenous communities.

Understanding Indigenous peoples’ geographical knowledge aids academic research by resituating the human in ecological terms and the non-human in ethical terms.

The Center works in collaboration with three international centers including; Te Whare Kura: Indigenous Knowledges, Peoples and Identities at the University of Auckland, New Zealand; the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion at Macquarie University, Australia; and, with the Canada Research Chair in Identity and Diversity: The Aboriginal Experience at the University of Winnipeg, and in partnership with Haskell Indian Nations University (Haskell Environmental Research Studies Center) and KU’s Department of Geography.

Mesingw, the Masked Being

Mesingw, the Masked Being

Mesingw, the Masked Being, is the guardian spirit of the forest and game animals in Lenape tribal tradition.


Our Research

Mapping Progress in Indigenous Geography

Since the first International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in 1992, “Indigenous Geographies” has emerged as a vibrant and productive research theme. In recent years, the importance of that theme has been reflected in the development of specialty groups within national disciplinary organizations, publication of several special issues of academic journals, development of study programs, conference sessions, major research initiatives and a wide range of scholarly outputs. Learn more »


Place-based struggle is at the heart of Indigenous political and social movements for the revitalization of community, recovery of territory, and negotiation of coexistence in postcolonial societies. This joint research and publication project will focus on three specific place-based struggles, the Cheslatta Carrier Nation in northern British Columbia, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in New Zealand, and the Wakarusa wetlands in Kansas. Learn more »

Our Research - continued

Learning from Indigenous Science: Indigenous Perception and Adaptation to Environmental Change in Kiribati

The Indigenous inhabitants of the atoll nation of Kiribati are known for their unequaled vulnerability to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and to sea-level change. The goal of this seed project is to send an interdisciplinary team of investigators from KU to research locales in the South Pacific island nation of Kiribati so that we can explore the breadth of environmental knowledge held by I-Kiribati, including their adaptation strategies to past and current climate change impacts using a mix of methods including ethnographic interviews, historical documentation, monitoring of coastal dynamics, and climate modeling. Learn more »

We Are the Wetlands

This project was supported by the Spencer Museum of Art's Integrated Arts Research Initiative through a grant from the Andrew W. Melon Foundation. This series of posters was completed by students in the Environmental Issues of the Wakarusa Wetlands class taught by Professors Jay T. Johnson, Joseph P. Brewer, Cody Marshall and guest instructor Dave Loewenstein. Learn more »



  • Jay T. Johnson, University of Kansas, Department of Geography & Atmospheric Science
  • Brad Coombes, Auckland University and Director of Te Whare Kura: Indigenous Knowledges, Peoples and Identities
  • Joe Brewer, University of Kansas, Environmental Studies Program
  • Renee Pualani Louis, University of Kansas, Institute for Policy & Social Research
  • Mark Palmer, University of Missouri, Department of Geography
  • Evelyn Peters, University of Winnipeg, Department of Geography
  • Maano Ramutsindela, University of Cape Town, Department of Environmental and Geographical Science
  • Dan Wildcat, Haskell Indian Nations University and Director of the Haskell Environmental Research and Studies Center
  • Ming Huey (tibusungu'e) Wang, Taiwan National Normal University and the Indigenous Research and Development Center

Partner Organizations

Graduate Research Fellows

  • Katrina McClure, PhD candidate
  • Katie Grote, PhD candidate
  • Taylor Hall, MA student
  • Kari Snelding, MA student