This course is designed to give students an overview of the key issues, concerns and perspectives involved in social work with Aboriginal peoples. Aboriginal peoples in North America have traditions of healing, caring and restoring balance between spirit, mind, body and emotion that long predate Western models of social work. Any social work intervention must honor and build on the strengths, resiliency, diversity and sovereignty of Aboriginal communities. Social workers must also acknowledge Aboriginal epistemologies, the unique systems of knowledge that guide and underpin Aboriginal helping practices.
The course will explore the historical legacies of colonization, racism, struggles over land and sovereignty and the systemic destruction of traditional practices. This historical context is essential in understanding the contemporary social problems facing urban and rural Aboriginal communities which will be examined in the course, including substance abuse, family violence, suicide and homelessness. Students will be exposed to contemporary Aboriginal models of healing and helping, developed by and for Aboriginal communities. Finally, the course will explore points of connection between Western and Aboriginal social work practices and philosophies, as well as identifying key differences. The course will employ a holistic approach, potentially involving community members, elders and experiential as well as formal learning styles.