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5 Essential Courses on Indigenous Peoples’ Activism, Culture and Worldviews

In 2007 the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, setting minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples and communities. Until today the document is the most comprehensive international instrument for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights. Despite these efforts, indigenous communities are continuing to face countless issues including lack of political representation, economic exclusion, racism and discrimination and the violation of their resource and land rights. To help defend and promote the human rights of indigenous peoples, it is essential to understand the issues they are facing, their unique history, culture and worldviews. We have compiled a list of 5 courses to learn more about indigenous peoples. All courses in this list can be audited for free. You can opt-in for a paid certificate for an extra fee. Financial aid is available for those who qualify through the course providers.

Screenshot from “Indigenous Canada (University of Alberta)”

Indigenous Canada (University of Alberta)

Although the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took steps to improve the protection of human rights, serious and systemic challenges remain. Access to safe drinking water, violence against women and girls, unlawful detention and food poverty are some of the biggest issues indigenous peoples are facing in Canada today. In this course offered by University of Alberta, you will learn about the history and contemporary issues of indigenous communities in Canada. The topics covered by the course include indigenous legal systems and rights, political conflicts, indigenous activism, as well as indigenous life, art and forms of expression. Taught by members of the faculty of native studies the course offers a comprehensive introduction to indigenous peoples in Canada. The entire course takes roughly 12 hours to complete and received an average of 4.82 stars out of 5 stars from more than 11,000 learners. While the course is taught entirely in English, videos contain subtitles in Arabic, French, Portuguese (European), Italian, Vietnamese, German, Russian, English, Spanish.

One highlight of the course are interactive paintings on topics such as governance, aboriginal women, resource use and education that are featured at the end of each week. Learners are invited to explore these paintings on their own, zoom in and out, while the facilitator guides learners through specific areas of interest.

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Aboriginal Worldviews and Education (University of Toronto)

Offered by the University of Toronto, this course explores indigenous worldviews from a political, social and historical perspective. In the first week you will learn why indigenous worldviews matter for the future of Canada, including for demographic reasons, because of climate change and to uphold social justice and human rights. In the beginning of the course the instructor also highlights some excruciating statistics about indigenous peoples in Canada such as “

To take this course, no prior knowledge is required. To complete the course and receive a passing grade, you need to submit one peer assignment (50%) and two quizzes (25% each).

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Climate Change and Indigenous People and local communities (University of Barcelona)

Indigenous peoples and local communities are disproportionately negatively affected by climate change. At the same time indigenous peoples are least responsible for greenhouse emissions and global warming. In fact indigenous groups are vital to strengthen the ecosystems they inhabit. Indigenous Peoples develop strategies that may help other societies to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. In this course offered by University of Barcelona, you will explore how indigenous peoples and local communities are impacted by climate change and how indigenous groups and communities can be included in climate change research and policy. Hence, the course will be especially useful for everyone who works together with indigenous peoples and local communities through research. Beyond videos, readings and quizzes, the course contains one peer-graded assignment that is required to obtain a certificate.

At the time of writing this course was rated with 4.6 out of 5 stars. With climate change and indigenous peoples rights being two of the most crucial human rights topics of our time, this course is an opportunity to explore how these issues intersect on fundamental levels.

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Indigenous Religions & Ecology (Yale University)

While this course can be taken on its own, it is part of a larger series of courses on Religion and Ecology. The entire series aims to provide learners with a better understanding of the ecological perspectives of different religions, including indigenous religions. The course argues that religions recognize the unity and interdependence of human with nature and highlights some of the significant contributions of Indigenous peoples in Africa, Asia, Americas and Pacific regions to promote environmental understanding. The course focuses on themes such as environmental protection and conservation, NGO workers fighting for ecological justice and religious leaders who promote interreligious dialogue on environmental projects.

Altogether, the course takes roughly 24 hours to complete and is taught entirely in English. Previous learners have rated the entire series with 4.8 stars out of 5 stars at the time of writing. As with other courses, you can either choose to audit the course for free or opt-in for a paid certificate for an extra fee.

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Artic Development (University of Alberta)

The last course in this list is offered by University of Alberta and aims to provide you with a deeper understanding of sustainability concepts, geopolitics, resource management and development. You will learn about the resilience of norther communities, as well as the strategies and initiatives to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the rapidly changing artic. In the first week of the course, you will receive a general introduction to the artic and its geopolitics. The second week of the course focuses on the natural resources in the artic region and how these resources are currently managed by different stakeholders. The third week of the course focuses on community resilience, food security, health care and policing in the artic. Climate change adaption strategies and policy are the focus of the final week.

The shortest course in this list, Artic Development takes roughly 7 hours to complete. At time of writing previous learners rated the course with 4.7 out of 5 stars. To receive a passing grade, learners have to complete 12 short quizzes. The course contains various discussion prompts to explore some of the critical questions that course raises.

About the author

Robert Fellner

Robert is founder of Human Rights Careers (HRC). A platform with the aim to support human rights students, alumni, graduates and professionals in pursuing and developing their career in human rights. Prior to launching HRC, Robert worked as Global Human Rights EdTech Manager at Amnesty International in London and as consultant for international human rights organizations globally. During 2011 and 2012, Robert worked as lecturer at Ain Shams university in Egypt. Robert has a masters in literature and human rights.