Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Gary Dumbrill


Sheila Sammon



Committee Member

Ann Fudge Schormans


Indigenous populations have experienced vast travesties due to the impacts of colonialism. Colonialism continues to be perpetuated through the services, programs and policies that Indigenous people encounter. This research thesis tackles the question of how non-Indigenous social workers, professionals and interested parties can work with Indigenous people in appropriate and respectful ways. It also reviews how non-Indigenous people can work and think across difference. This research represents my journey towards decolonizing myself to find new ways of being White that are compatible with Indigenous knowledge systems and ways of knowing. Autoethnography, relevant literature and interviews were used to explore ways of working with Indigenous populations. Three participants who had been identified by an Indigenous academic as people who had worked with Indigenous populations in appropriate and respectful ways were interviewed in Canada. An analysis of the three semi in-depth interviews produced several recommendations for non-Indigenous people in working with Indigenous populations. Results acknowledge the complexity of working and thinking across difference. Suggestions for working with Indigenous populations are highlighted and include such themes as acknowledging tensions and privilege, understanding that there is a large diversity within Indigenous populations, recognizing that there are aspects of dominant ways of knowing that are compatible with Indigenous ways of knowing, the importance of not being afraid to take risks and of trying not to make assumptions. Decolonization is an uneasy pursuit that is fraught with tension and this research hopes to encourage other social workers, professionals and interested parties to engage in similar processes.

McMaster University Library

Included in

Social Work Commons