Indigenous Social Work in the United States: Reflections on Indian Tacos, Trojan Horses and Canoes Filled with Indigenous Revolutionaries
This chapter examines the concept of Indigenous social work as it exists within the United States. Here, as in many countries around the world, the social work profession is one of the core helping professions. In particular, social workers’ mission is to serve disenfranchised and vulnerable populations. This often includes people from various ethnic minority groups, as well as Indigenous Peoples, some of whom have been trained as social workers and apply social work skills and values in their own work with these groups. The mere fact, however, that Indigenous Peoples are serving as social workers should not be taken to mean that the work that they are doing is ‘Indigenous social work’. In fact, it may or may not differ from social work services offered by any other social worker. This reminds me of an old joke which poses the question, ‘What makes an Indian taco Indian?’, the answer to which is ‘The chef’! However, I do not believe it is that simple. Anyone who has eaten an ‘Indian taco’ would recognize that the ingredients and the way they are served do vary from what would constitute a taco in a non-Indigenous context. Therefore, as we move forward with an examination of what constitutes Indigenous social work in the context of the United States, I take the position that the identity of the social worker is not enough to make social work ‘Indigenous’.