You are on page 1of 35

Leading Across Cultures

with an Aboriginal Focus

Barb Reaney
Jennifer Ellis
JJ Mackwood
Matt Wengrowich
SOWK 697

The Canadian Social Work Review identifies four key principals

to developing an aboriginal model of social work practice:
1)recognition of a distinct Aboriginal world view,
2) the development of Aboriginal consciousness about the
impact of colonialism,
3) cultural knowledge and traditions as an active component of
retaining Aboriginal identity and collective consciousness,
4)and empowerment as a method of practice.
(Morrissette, McKenzie, & Morrissette, 1993, p. 91-92)

We must learn from Aboriginal leaders!

(as cited in Dufault, 2003, p. 78):

The chasm between non-Native

and Native world views can be
made smaller through increased
seek a balance of mind, body and
spirit; but from different angles.
Mainstream culture seeks to
control the Spirit to produce
goodness, whereas Aboriginal
culture seeks to liberate its

What is Aboriginal Leadership?

Aboriginal leadership is about
meeting the needs of the entire
community and about connecting
community to the past. It is also
about leading a life filled with
purpose; what one leaders refers to
as bmadzowin - living a good life.
Moreover, its learning about your
clan, learning about your
responsibilities in the community.
(Julien, Wright, Zinni, 2009 p. 9)

How Aboriginal Leadership differs from Mainstream Leadership



long term perspective

best interest of community
leadership resides in all people
non-hierarchical - all are
connected - all equal and all
voices important
circle - holistic perspective
(medicine wheel)
spirituality is fundamental - guides
leadership actions
stores/Imagery - share vision, offer
insights, teach lessons and create
consensus - central to leaders
community style

short term perspective

best interest of shareholder
focus on process; motivated by
based on hierarchical
relationships and exclusionary
non-holistic approach - Belief, for
some, can be that there are no
responsibilities outside of work
sacrifice, compromise

Leadership does not reside with one person, in one title, or one
location - but rather, it lies within all.
(Julien, Wright, Zinni, 2009 p. 10)

(as cited in Tupahache, 1986, p. 48):

Aboriginal leaders are expected to serve as examples,

to seek not personal
power or status but the common
Career Progression
good, and to reach decisions by consensus.
Values and norms - can create
conflicts for Aboriginal individuals
working in organizations where
Western value and norms
Assertiveness - (cited by
Tupahache, 1986, p. 48)
aggressive assertion of leadership
is not accepted within many Indian
Tribes (Dwyer, 2003, p. 5)

Background - experience,
education, qualifications

Historically, education for

Aboriginal students has

involved the deliberate deemphasis of indigenous
culture (Weaver, 2000, p. 417)

Education has been used as a

tool of cultural destruction(p. 417)

Experienced attempts to change

students' ways of interacting in the belief
that professional practices grounded in
Anglo cultural norms are superior.

Holistic community vs hierarchical

Students who continue

their education
eventually conform to
Eurocentric professional
standards since the
alternative is
professional failure
(Weaver, 2000, p. 417)

bureaucratic educational system

Need to compromise cultural identity to
succeed in school
Conflict between social work
theories/models and cultural values
impacted GPA
Social work seen as paternalistic

Culture shock
High rates of early dropout
Far from home
Commuting to school inability to
participate in social activities
Discrimination and Stereotypes
Attitudes of classmates and faculty

Assumptions about entry criteria for
aboriginal students
Students of combined heritage viewed as not
native enough

Lack of attention to cultural issues

Aboriginal students are expected to be spokespersons on
cultural issues, while white students rarely share their cultural
Communicates that these issues are not as important as others
Leads students to devalue their heritage
Social work students who lack education regarding diversity and
oppression may become social work graduates who lack selfawareness required to practice
Cultural knowledge was gained through:
Self-initiated study, participation in conferences
Contact with indigenous peers, elders, family, colleagues
Field practicum, work, volunteer opportunities

The road to improvement:

Recognize learning styles and communication patterns of

Aboriginal students

Use teaching methods compatible with Aboriginal culture

Identify where social supports are lacking and seek to improve

Try not to automatically impose dominant belief system without

evaluating the merits of different ways of doing things

Increase the amount of cultural diversity content integrated into

all social work classes

Perspectives and Challenges

Aboriginal leaders are expected to preserve traditional values while adapting to
the Canadian economic and social reality. (Loizides & Wuttunee, 2003, p. 2)


requires confidence in ones

abilities, values and culture
relies on his or her reputation and
relies on supportive relationships
needs to set an example and be a
good role model
Aboriginal leadership qualities:
balance and harmony
leadership through service
emphasis on learning
persistence in promoting
community interests

complete fewer years of school

face higher unemployment
experience more social problems
than the Canadian average



The interplay between oppression of Aboriginal women due to

issues of not only culture, but also gender is significant in

human services organizations. Social work is not only a female
dominated profession, but is also heavily influenced by the
needs of Aboriginal clients.

Racial discrimination
Within larger society and within the tribe
Not fitting in anywhere
Too white or too Westernized if successful as leaders
Yet, still Aboriginal and not accepted in white society
Unable to be successful without adopting values and practices of
dominant culture
Need to Walk in Both Worlds:
comfort with functioning in both world and being able to
integrate aspects of both cultures, taking strengths from both, in
order to be successful as a leader.
On the other hand, it is not possible to be both at once; it is
necessary to utilize aspects of each culture in parallel

Gender discrimination
within agency, society, and Aboriginal community
Traditionally, Aboriginal culture recognizes the power of women
in the family
Power has eroded as a result of colonialism

Need to fight to prove oneself within the agency

Pressure to represent the whole tribe, take role more seriously than

non-aboriginal leaders

Management is a gendered construct, reflecting the patriarchal

system of values, and bounded by concepts such as autocratic, and
democratic or controlling and collaborative(Sloan & Krone, 2000, as cited by Taylor
& Strauss, 2006, p. 143)

Waiting for Trust

1) It does not address the ongoing

trauma legacies from invasion
2) It does not take account of the
ongoing experiences of racism
being experienced by
Aboriginal people

1) Isolation of communities
2) Protective responses to community members
3) Underuse of mainstream services

Become informed about the full history of Aboriginal people

Take a stance
Reach out

The Cyclical Development Process of Social Justice Allies at


As a non-aboriginal leader, the term supervision in relation to

aboriginal staff is problematic and may reinforce colonial

compliance in the work place Reframing supervision as
supporting development instead of compliance is important. (p.

Peer supervision and the use of stories may allow for aboriginal

staff to share their knowledge with coworkers. (p. 80-81)

Overall there needs to be development of cultural competency,

creation of reflective space that is relevant and meaningful, and

supporting all staff to build culturally inclusive supervision
environments. (p. 84)

Occasionally, external supervision may be helpful if internal

knowledge isnt available. (p. 83)

They create and sustain acceptance and growth among colleagues

They increase understanding of the issues facing those who
experience oppression and encourage everyday activism among
They help create new perspectives

1)Foster positive social

justice attitudes


appropriate action


An Indigenous Perspective & Provocation

Salvation aka Missionary Work & Self Therapy

Exploitation & Co-optation
Self proclaiming/confessional Allies
Academics & Intellectuals
Navigators & Floaters
Acts of Resignation
Noun: accomplice; plural noun: accomplices
1. a person who helps another commit a

1) No matter how liberated you are, if you are still occupying

Indigenous lands you are still a colonizer
2) The work of an accomplice in anti-colonial struggle is to attack
colonial structures and idea
3) Articulate your relationship to Indigenous Peoples whose lands
you are occupying
4) Establish lines of communication: try to do more listening than
5) Do not assume all Indigenous people have the same political
6) Do not hand hold and do not assume it is the responsibility of
Indigenous people to hold your hand in the process of becoming
an accomplice
7) Listen with respect for the range of cultural practices and
dynamics that exist within various Indigenous communities
8) Accomplices arent motivated by personal guilt or shame
9) Accomplices are realized through mutual consent and build trust.
10)Dont wait around for anyone to proclaim you to be an

Accomplices not Allies: An Indigenous Perspective & Provocation (2014), Indigenous Action Media, Retrieved from
Barkdull, C. (2009). Exploring intersections of identity with native american women leaders. AFFILIA: Journal of Women and Social Work, 24(2),
Collins, J.C. & Chlup, D.T. (2014). Criticality in Practice: The Cyclical Development Process of Social Justice Allies at Work. Advances in
Developing Human Resources, 16(4), 481-498.
Dwyer, R. (2003). Career progression factors of Aboriginal executives in the Canada federal public service. The Journal of Management
Development. 22(9/10), 881.
Herring, S., Spangaro, J., Lauw, M. & Mcnamara, L. (2013). The Intersection of Trauma, Racism, and Cultural Competence in Effective Work with
Aboriginal People: Waiting for Trust. Australian Social Work, 66(1), 104-117.
Julien, M., Wright, B., Zinni., D. (2009). Stories from the circle: Leadership lessons learned from aboriginal leaders. The Leadership Quarterly,
21(1), 114-126.
Loizides, S. & Wuttunee, W. (2003). Leadership Aboriginal Perspectives and Challenges. New York: The Conference Board of Canada.

Morrissette, V., McKenzie, B., & Morrissette, L. (1993). Towards an Aboriginal Model of Social Work Practice: Cutlrural Knowledge and
Traditional Practices. Canadian Social Work Review, 10(1), 91-108.
Petray, T.L. (2010). Support vs. Solidarity: White Involvement in the Aboriginal Movement. Social Alternatives, 29(3), 69-72.
Scerra, N. (2012). Models of Supervision: Providing Effective Support to Aboriginal Staff. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2012(1), 77-85.
Taylor, M. J., & Strauss, K. (2006). Native american women who lead human service organizations. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social
Work, 15(1), 123-146.
Weaver, H. N. (2000). Culture and professional education: The experiences of native american social workers. Journal of Social Work Education,
36(3), 415-428.