Honoring Our Ancestors

Using Reconciliatory Pedagogy to Dismantle White Supremacy


  • Jennifer McCleary University of Minnesota Duluth
  • Estelle Simard




Dismantling White supremacy, reconciliation, Indigenous knowledge, social work history


The US social work profession has historically claimed primarily middle-class white women as the "founders" of the profession, including Jane Addams and Mary Richmond. Scholarship of the history of the profession has focused almost entirely on settlement houses, anti-poverty advocacy, and charity in the late 1800s in the northeastern United States as the groundwork of current social work practice. Courses in social work history socialize students into this historical framing of the profession and perpetuate a white supremacist narrative of white women as the primary doers of social justice work that colonizes the bodies and knowledge of Indigenous people and their helping systems. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in the US have always had indigenous systems of social care. Yet, the social justice work of BIPOC, and especially Indigenous people in the US, is left out of the dominant narrative of the history of social work practice for several reasons including racism, colonialism, and white supremacy. In this paper the authors contribute to the critique of the role of white supremacy as a colonizing process in social work history narratives and discuss frameworks for decolonizing social work pedagogy through a reconciliatory practice that aims to dismantle white supremacy.


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