Acknowledging Harms Done to Indigenous and Tribal Peoples

Published on : August 5, 2021

Contact: Patrick Dunne, [email protected]
The purpose of the social work profession is to promote well-being in all communities, yet there is no doubt that social work educators have upheld colonial and racist norms and encouraged clients to assimilate to larger American culture norms.
CSWE Statement Cover ImageThe Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Board of Directors on June 25, 2021, humbly adopted an acknowledgement of social work education’s role in harms committed against Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. The statement was drafted by the Indigenous and Tribal Social Work Educators Association (ITSWEA) as one mechanism for holding our profession accountable for ways soc
ial workers have harmed Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. 
CSWE apologizes for those harms and puts forward 6 ways to improve awareness and deepen a commitment to social justice throughout social work education.
“This statement of acknowledgement was created for educators to use as a resource in social justice, racial inequities, and social work curriculums. We hope that this apology not only helps to heal our relationships with Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, but that it helps educators and students better work with these communities in the future,” said CSWE President & CEO Darla Spence Coffey, PhD, MSW.
“Recognizing that harms were done by social work educators to Indigenous and Tribal Peoples is another step towards disrupting racism and fulfilling our profession’s commitment to social justice,” said Saundra Starks, EdD, LCSW, chair of the CSWE Board. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with ITSWEA on this statement and offer a clear way forward for social work education.”
In the statement, CSWE commits to the following measures:
  • Commit to active engagement across policy and practice levels to repair past harm, stop current harm, and prevent future harm to Indigenous and Tribal children, families, and communities;
  • Advocate for the fulfillment of treaty and public policy obligations to Indigenous and Tribal Peoples;
  • Ensure research funding, research design, data collection and analysis, oral or printed interpretations, and education about Indigenous and Tribal Peoples is driven by Indigenous and Tribal people and their protocols;
  • Prioritize decolonization in social work education in concert with Indigenous and Tribal partners, recognizing that Western paradigms continue to be privileged across practice levels and that they may result in practices that are often unhelpful and even harmful for Indigenous and Tribal Peoples;
  • Support self-determination of communities to build culturally congruent systems of economic, social and spiritual supports and promote Indigenous and Tribal Peoples to heal and thrive; and
  • Recruit and support Indigenous and Tribal people into the social work profession at every level, including social work education.
“We hope that these commitments along with the acknowledgement of past harms will serve as a partial account of the harms committed against Indigenous and Tribal Peoples by our profession,” said Hilary Weaver, DSW, CSW, chair-elect of the CSWE Board, and ITSWEA president. “Many educators and students generously offered their time and knowledge to craft this statement, which we gladly offer as a gift to everyone in social work education.”

Read the full statement