Genuine, collaborative connections between the Department of Social Work at Humboldt State University and Indigenous/Native American Groups and Communities

Department Perspective

Michael Yellow Bird - MSW, Ph.D.

MSW Program Director

Genuine, collaborative connections between the Department of Social Work at Humboldt State University and Indigenous/Native American groups and communities are important to the mission of the Department, as well as to the commitment that our Department holds for the sovereignty and rights of Indigenous Peoples. Below are some of the connections we currently have with Native organizations:

Blue Creek Ah Pah Traditional Yurok Village project: This collaboration enables our students and faculty to visit the traditional village and learn how the traditions of Yurok people offer a number of important sustainable solutions to the growing list of global problems, including cultural preservation and renewal, community building, ecological stewardship, and healing.

Seventh Generation Fund: The Seventh Generation (SGF) is an international Indigenous, non-profit organization devoted to upholding the uniqueness and the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations throughout the world.

Yurok Circles of Care project:  Students and faculty in collaboration with the Yurok tribe seek to develop a behavioral/mental health service model for Yurok children, youth and transition age adults 0-25 and their families.  For this project, the renewal of traditional Yurok practices, values and beliefs is presented as a sustainable model for improving, promoting and supporting health and wellness in the Yurok community.

Native Wellness Council: The Social Work Department maintains an advisory council of Indigenous and non-Indigenous professionals, leaders, and organizations that help guide curriculum development, policies, and research that focuses on the empowerment of Indigenous Peoples’ communities.

The Department of Social Work at Humboldt State University engages in 'decolonizing' social work. It recognizes that there continues to be numerous threats to Indigenous Peoples as most are situated in settler colonial societies that have, and continue to, deprive them of their rights, culture, and dignity.

Some of the threats include:

- the continuation of colonization of Indigenous Peoples lives and lands, the use of Western colonial social work practices and education that privilege settler social work knowledge and ideology;
- the use of “development” by the state and corporate world to perpetuate the ecocide of Indigenous Peoples’ environments, the unabated industrialization of society that is contributing to climate change and disproportionately affects Indigenous Peoples;
- the poor health outcomes of Indigenous Peoples due to their participation and location in colonial society;
- the ongoing racisms that are subtly and openly directed at these groups.

Our Department recognizes that engaging in ‘decolonizing’ social work requires a focus on the strengths of Indigenous Peoples while challenging, dismantling, and rejecting the oppressive structures and ideas of Western society, and help to mitigate these threats. We recognize that decolonized social work embraces the liberatory cultural practices of Indigenous Peoples, their environmental knowledge, and their acts of sovereignty and resistance against the oppressive colonial order.

Professor Yellow Bird is a citizen of the Arikara (Sahnish) and Hidatsa Nations in North Dakota. His scholarship and activism focuses on: Native American and other Indigenous Peoples cultural and political rights; Indigenous Peoples’ health and wellness, neurodeocolonization and mindfulness; and Colonization and methods of Decolonization.  See his most recent publication here: Decolonizing Social Work.