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Multiculturalism and Social Work | San Francisco State University

The Role of Social Work in Advancing the Practice of Indigenous Education: Obstacles and Promises in Empowerment-Oriented Social Work Practice

Author: Yellow-Bird, Michael J.; Chenault,-Venida
Author Background:
Date 1/1/99
Type Book
Journal Title: Chapter 9 in: Next Steps: Research and Practice To Advance Indian Education ; see RC 021 798.
Subject Matter Interpersonal and Social Intervention
Abstract The mission of social work is to help people meet their basic needs and enhance their well-being. Through a strong empowerment orientation, the profession can aid people vulnerable to oppression as a result of racism, discrimination, and poverty. Social work can be a powerful force in advancing the practice of Indigenous education. Social workers and educators working together can use empowerment-oriented strategies to enable Indigenous people to influence educational decisions and practices that affect their lives. These strategies include building strong collaborative relationships with parents, teachers, students, and school administrators to increase their personal and political power; moving away from models that blame the student, family, or culture for Indigenous students low academic achievement, high dropout rates, and nonconforming behavior; and overcoming oppressive structural aspects of school and community life that create disappointing outcomes for Indigenous children. Social workers and educators must acknowledge their professions role in the painful legacy of boarding schools and mass removal of Indigenous children from their homes. Honest and meaningful dialogues with Indigenous peoples on this subject will promote respect for and validation of their narratives, survival, and experiences. Social workers can advance Indigenous education by assuming various roles: human services broker, teacher, counselor, staff developer, and social change agent. Social workers can use their understanding of social policy to analyze social problems and programs relevant to First Nations communities, and students of social work with field practicum experience in Indigenous communities can bring important cultural knowledge and understanding to schools. Contains 80 references and endnotes. (TD)