Culturally Responsive Social Work, Social Work with Indigenous People, Social Work with Native Americans, Social Work with American Indians, American Indian Health Care


The history of the American social work profession and its interactions with Indigenous people is fraught with cultural erasure. Social workers have been complicit and outright participatory in various forms of settler state violence, especially in the form of forced cultural assimilation through the Indian Adoption Project and Indian Residential schools. While these institutions are now closed, and federal law ostensibly prevents such harms from recurring, Indigenous people are often rightfully suspect of social workers and the work they do. To avoid perpetuating American settler state violence, social workers need to approach their work with a solid analysis of the ways that this violence has historically impacted Indigenous people.

How can non-Indigenous people approach this analysis, and the overall profession of social work with a decolonizing lens? How can they center Indigenous voices and experiences in a helping practice? How can they do this work in a way that respects the generational trauma that Indigenous people have suffered at the hands of social workers? What Indigenous created tools can they use in this work?

While exploring these questions, I will use Indigenous created scholarship to unpack the history of Indigenous-social work interactions and the ways that those interactions perpetuated state violence. I survey Indigenous created practical methods for working in Indigenous communities in ways that center specifically Indigenous ideas of community, relationship, and mental health. I will explore the use of the Indian Child Welfare Act, how Indigenous people view it, and other legal decisions that have recently impacted Indigenous life. Lastly, I will examine these tools through a critical lens, and explore the pathway forward in the process of returning the practice of social welfare for Indigenous people to their control.



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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

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