Clinical assn 3 spring 2011 v.4 (97)Presentation Transcript
Working with Native American Clients
SOWK 4003: Spring 2011
By Spencer Abrahamson and Stephanie Begun
Native American Elders/Circle of Life Blanket, Courtesy of Google Images
While hardly an “immature civilization,” after centuries of forced migration, genocide and societal oppression:
4.1 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives live in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002).
Culturally-sensitive social work with Native Americans requires a deeper understanding of the group’s history of oppression.
Federal policy has been responsible for countless atrocities against Native Americans, including:
Mandated removal from native lands
Conquest and indigenous holocaust
Mass destruction through exposure to deadly disease and inhumane living conditions
(MacEachron, Gustavsson, Cross, & Lewis, 1996).
Courtesy of YouTube Courtesy of Google Images
Courtesy of YouTube Historical Context and Effects of Native American Oppression
Photos Courtesy of Google Images Mass Lakota Grave following the Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota
Generations of Native Americans have suffered from government-inflicted violence and racism.
This oppression has created some of the most extreme categorical statistics seen in the U.S.
Years of formal education are the lowest of any racial or ethnic category in the U.S.
Nearly one-third of all Native American adults are illiterate.
Dropout rates between 8 th and 9 th grades range up to 85% in urban areas.
Lizardi & Gearing (2010):
The rate of suicide among Native Americans is 1.7 times higher than the rest of U.S.
Native American adolescent males (ages 15-24) are 2.5 times more likely to commit suicide
than same age group for the remainder of U.S. population.
Native Americans are among the poorest people in the U.S.
Native Americans display some of the worst statistics for life expectancy, homicide,
motor vehicle accidents and overall health statistics of any U.S. racial or ethnic group.
Photos Courtesy of Google Images Pine Ridge Indian Reservation poverty: According to U.S. Census Bureau Data (2000), this is the poorest county in the U.S., with unemployment rates ranging from 80-85% and about 50% of residents living under the Federal poverty line.
Substance abuse and domestic violence are major issues facing Native Americans. Native Americans are also greatly overrepresented in the child welfare system (Weaver, 1999).
The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 extended self-determination policy to include child welfare. This was adopted as a response to the large numbers of Native American children removed from households of family origin (and subsequent placement into non-Native American households). Debate over this policy’s effectiveness continues today (MacEachron, Gustavsson, Cross, & Lewis, 2010).
Many pendulum shifts have occurred in U.S. policy toward Native Americans, resulting in many broken treaties toward tribes.
In order to effectively work with Native American clients, practitioners must possess a fundamental understanding of Native American culture.
Important aspects of Native American culture are: spirituality, the tribe, the Medicine Wheel and Native American diversity.
No sacred text, oral transmission is valued
Interconnected sacred and non-sacred
Spirituality is present in all aspects of life
Medicine Wheel http://www.realjustice.org/articles.html?articleId=404
Emphasizes the importance and interconnectedness of all aspects of life
If one aspect is ignored life becomes unbalanced (Rybak & Decker-Fitts, 2009)
Similar to social work’s system theory
The Importance of the Tribe
"The tribe is an inter-dependent system of people who perceive themselves as parts of the greater whole rather than as a whole consisting of individual parts." (Garrett & Garrett, 1994)
Major gaps exist between social work theory and practice related to working with Native American clients (Nicotera, Walls, & Lucero, 2010). Cultural sensitivity involves reframing norms of mainstream social work practice to fit needs of clients.
Rejection of gifts is typical in social work practice, but giving gifts is an important cultural ritual in many Native American cultures.
Brief treatment modalities are hurdles because of the importance placed on long-term, trust-building processes.
Native Americans live in both rural and urban settings, and evaluating the degree to which a client identifies with native culture is crucial. Stereotyping and false assumptions may occur without understanding the individual’s place within tribal culture. (Nicotera, Walls, & Lucero, 2010).
Existing research usually does not operationalize or offer sufficient practical suggestions for working with Native Americans. Literature is often vague and doesn’t provide specific tools for engaging in culturally sensitive practice.
Native American culture and practice are topics that remain under-represented in social work curriculum. Many social workers avoid or resist working with Native American populations, because they fear their lack of experience or in-group identity will prevent them from achieving a helping relationship. Curriculum needs to change to better address some of the most marginalized people in the U.S. (Weaver, 1999). A failure to do so results in further oppression of Native Americans.