chapter  3
10 Pages

Towards an Understanding of Indigenous Social Work

ByMel Gray, Michael Yellow Bird, John Coates

The social work profession’s involvement with Indigenous Peoples has frequently been viewed through the same lens as work with people outside these cultures. Not surprisingly, the social work literature views its work with Indigenous Peoples from cross-cultural, anti-oppressive or structural perspectives. While recognizing their marginalization and colonization by colonial, non-aboriginal governments, and despite the efforts of some to adapt social work education programmes to better fit their needs and cultural traditions (see Gair, Chapter 17), the profession has not developed its knowledge or approaches in tandem with Indigenous Peoples. Instead, its general focus has largely relied on adapting its therapeutic modalities to deal with problems that arise among Indigenous populations. For example, child welfare and corrections, which focus on individual pathologies rather than reforming the oppressive system, stand out as institutionalized vehicles through which this has taken place. In short, social work has largely attempted to ‘Indigenize’ social work in the same ways it has attempted to export its Anglo-American methodology to nonWestern nations (see Chapter 1).