Date of Dissertation


Document Type

Banded Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work

First Advisor

Laurel N. Bidwell


Social Work


This banded dissertation contains three related products: a conceptual article, a research article, and the development of an original social work course. Together the products conceptualize, research, and envision how accredited social work programs can integrate tribal sovereign status relevant theories and concepts into curriculum to prepare social workers to collaborate and work with Indigenous peoples and communities. The primary conceptual framework that informs the dissertation is decolonization theory. Decolonization entails a broad theoretical spectrum that includes both philosophical-oriented and action-effort approaches to combat the generational effects that colonization has inflected on Indigenous peoples (Gray, M., Coates, J., Yellow Bird, M., & Hetherington, T., 2013; Aquash, 2013; Mbembe, 2013; Gibson, 2007). An elder epistemological framework is also utilized whereas Indigenous elders are consulted as informers to the research findings and the dissertation work at-large (Christensen & Poupart, 2013).

The first section of this banded dissertation is a conceptual article that focuses on the intersection of decolonization and the social work curriculum. Theoretical and action-efforts of the decolonization theoretical spectrum are examined. Early social work activities in the United States inflicted the dominant cultural values of an imperial or colonial nature on Indigenous Peoples (Gray, Coates, Yellow Bird, & Hetherington, 2013). These values were adapted into social welfare polices and social work standards of practice, and are often dissimilar to Indigenous cultural values. How ideologies of decolonization can be integrated into the social work curriculum, its learning spaces, and its assessment are conceptualized within the context of the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) - Education and Policy Accreditation Standards (EPAS) Competency 2 – Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice.

The second section of this banded dissertation describes a qualitative study. In the exploratory study, 12 social workers with practice experience working with tribal communities were interviewed in order to identify indigenous-relevant content for social work curricula. Content analysis was used to analyze the data. Social work practice-oriented (i.e. historical trauma, cultural appropriation, and identity) and policy-oriented themes (i.e. tribal governance structure, historical policy and action, self-governance, and environmental justice) emerged from the investigation. Aligning with principles of elder epistemology, tribal elders were consulted and provided feedback about the study’s findings and the elders provided recommendations for the direction of further research.

The third section of this banded dissertation is the design of a master of social work level course entitled: Indigenous Communities and Peoples: Effective Social Work Practice. The 5 curriculum content themes (Table 1) that emerged from the findings of the qualitative study outlined in section two of this banded dissertation are foundational and inform the course learning objectives. Social workers with practice experience working with tribal communities identified and inform indigenous-relevant, tribal sovereign status defining content, for social work curricula. The course is organized into 5 modules and includes both practice and policy-oriented topics. Consistent to the conceptual framework of the research study and the resulting course, decolonization ideologies and action-efforts and elder epistemology are primary course precepts.

Included in

Social Work Commons