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An Introduction to Remote Sensing for Tribal Lands

Training Overview

NASA’s Indigenous Peoples Capacity Building Initiative invites you to the Introduction to Remote Sensing on Indigenous Lands course. For this course, we have partnered with United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) to offer this all-virtual course with the option for Continuing Education credits. This course will consist of four modules: (1) an introduction to remote sensing and NASA data, (2) land cover classification, (3) change detection and time series analysis, and (4) web tools for remote sensing. Each module will be presented with lectures and hands-on lab exercises when participants will analyze data using Geographic Information System (GIS) software. The lab sections of this course will be taught on ArcGIS Pro, with options for ArcGIS Desktop and QGIS (freely-available). Each theme will also focus on the lands of a tribal partner such as the Navajo Nation, the Sault St. Marie band of Chippewa Indians, the Samish Indian Nation, and the Tulalip Tribes, and others. For each theme, we will also be joined by tribal members from the region to discuss the importance of remote sensing to natural and cultural resource management.

Course Dates

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:00-11:00 am PST (10-12 MST)(11-1 CST)(12-2 EST)
  • Start Date: Tuesday, October 6th
  • End Date: Thursday, October 29th

Prerequisites & Software

Prerequisites: Intermediate computer skills are a plus. Some knowledge of geospatial data or previous GIS courses recommended.

Software: The course will be taught in ArcGIS Pro. For most exercises, we will also have guidance for ArcGIS Desktop and QGIS, but the course will focus on the ArcGIS Pro examples.

  • ArcGIS (paid): This is a paid service, but you may have access via your tribe or UTTC. Please check with these entities if that is possible. More information on Arc and pricing can be found here:
  • QGIS (free): We recommend using QGIS 3.10 (A Coruña) image processing software, which is an open-source, free of charge software. You must download this software on your personal computer from: Please install the software before class and follow directions carefully. You will need to install Python 3.6 before installing QGIS. You will also need the GDAL library. The installation process is slightly more involved in the Mac operating system. It may take you several hours to install the software on your computer, so do no wait until the last minute.


Participants are eligible to apply for two continuing education units (CEUs) from United Tribes Technical College upon completion of all hands on exercises covered in the course. Please fill out the CEU Registration form and return your signed form to Anna at


Depending on total enrollment, participants may be eligible for a stipend from the Intertribal Research and Resource Center upon successful completion of all hands on exercises.

Course Overview

Wk 1: Intro to Remote Sensing & NASA Data

Download Week 1 materials here

Tuesday, October 6th

Session 1 recording

  • Introduction to the Navajo Nation
  • Lecture: Introduction to remote sensing
  • Exercise 1: Investigating color in a satellite image

Complete assignment for exercise 1 here (required for CEUs)

Thursday, October 8th

Session 2 recording

  • Exercise 2: Accessing and downloading data
  • Lecture: Vegetation indices
  • Exercise 3: Vegetation indices

Complete assignment for exercise 2 and 3 here (required for CEUs)

Wk 2: Land Cover Classification

Download Week 2 materials here

Tuesday, October 13th

Session 3 recording

  • Introduction to the Sault Ste Marie Band of Chippewa Indians
  • Lecture: Land cover classification
  • Exercise 4: Unsupervised classification

Complete assignment for exercise 4 here



Thursday, October 15th

Session 4 recording

  • Exercise 5: Supervised classification
  • Lecture: Accuracy assessment
  • Exercise 6: Accuracy assessment

Complete assignment for exercise 5 here

Complete assignment for exercise 6 here

Wk 3: Change Detection & Time Series

Download Week 3 materials here

Tuesday, October 20th

Session 5 recording

  • Introduction to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe
  • Lecture: Overview of change detection
  • Exercise 7: Change detection

Complete assignment for exercise 7 here

Thursday, October 22nd

  • Lecture: Time series analysis
  • Exercise 8: Time series analysis

Complete assignment for exercise 8 here

Wk 4: Remote Sensing Webtools

Download Week 4 materials here

Tuesday, October 27th

  • Introduction to the Samish Indian Nation and the Tulalip Tribes
  • Lecture: Webtools for remote sensing
  • Exercise 9: Climate Engine and the Drought Severity Evaluation Tool (DSET)
  • Exercise 10: FIRMS Active Fire Mapper and Worldview

Complete assignment for exercise 9 here

Complete assignment for exercise 10 here


Thursday, October 29th

  • Exercise 11: Global Forest Watch
  • Course Summary and Feedback

Complete assignment for exercise 11 here