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Indigenous Voices in Social Work: Not Lost In Translation Conference Highlights and Pictures

CSWE Cosponsors the University of Hawai‘i School of Social Work’s First Indigenous Social Work Conference

The UH School of Social Work held a conference entitled Indigenous Voices in Social Work: Not Lost in Translation at the Makaha Resort from June 4 – 7, 2007. Cosponsored by CSWE, the conference focused on the intersection of social work and indigenous peoples and featured over 400 presenters, participants, tribal/community leaders and social workers from Aotearoa New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Africa, North America, Canada, Hawai‘i, Australia, Tonga, Taiwan and Guam. Topics ranged from domestic violence to substance abuse to the long-term effects of colonization.

Highlights included a memorial lecture by Nainoa Thompson, master navigator of the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a, about his late father, esteemed social worker and UHSSW alum Myron “Pinky” Thompson; a welcome message from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Chairperson (and UHSSW alum) Haunani Apoliona; a performance by the Montana Indian Hall of Fame Dance Troupe; and a keynote talk by Native Hawaiian activist and radio show host Poka Laenui. There were over 75 workshops from indigenous practitioners and scholars and a number of site visits to local social service agencies whose primary clientele are Native Hawaiians.

The conference was conceived in 2004 when UH School of Social Work dean Jon K. Matsuoka attended the International Federation of Social Workers conference in Australia. While there, delegates from Aotearoa, Canada, America and Pacific Island Nations began discussing the urgent need to have such a conference. Upon his return to Hawai‘i, Matsuoka convened a meeting with faculty and the planning for the conference began in earnest in 2005.

According to Matsuoka, “The profession of social work has been a career choice for Indigenous people around the world due in large part to the disproportionate level of social problems often faced by Indigenous persons and the lifelong commitment there is to restoring well-being…This conference serves as one of the beginning points in enabling us to comprehend and consider approaches that will guide our development of practice wisdom. We envision this gathering as the genesis to a global Indigenous social work movement that [will serve] to alter existing paradigms, promote best practices, and address the most chronic and severe social problems.”

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