Date of Dissertation

5-2019

Document Type

Banded Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Mari Ann Graham

Department

Social Work

Abstract

Just as seasons shift and migration patterns modify in response to human impact, so too must social work. Along with the human contingency silenced by oppression, climate change disproportionately burdens the voiceless: the rooted, Nibi – water, Aki – Earth, winged, fourlegged, swimmers, and crawlers. Though the natural world has become part of social work’s discourse in recent decades, it is time to move beyond contemplative words and take action. This banded dissertation consists of three scholarly products that explore the past and present state of social work’s relationship with the natural environment through the frames of Indigenous knowledge and Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) and suggests a means to return to where we (humanity and social work) started – the beginning. Product one reviews the history of disconnection between humans and the environment, applies Indigenous wisdom and RCT to define social work’s role with the natural world, and reframes environmental rights as human rights. Product two is an exploratory archival study that examines the question: what was the relationship of early social work with the natural environment. The research utilizes Indigenous methodology and RCT to analyze data from three New York City Settlement houses. Product three summarizes information from a presentation that took place on July 7, 2018, at the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education, and Social Development in Dublin, Ireland. The presentation outlines a conceptual framework that combines Indigenous wisdom and Western knowledge into a model to heal self and the environment by listening to and honoring the body’s innate ability to repair in collaboration with the natural world. This scholarship is a call to the profession to welcome and assume its role in mending the rift between humans and the environment.

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