Warriors, empowerment, and social work
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AbstractTraditional Aboriginal cultures prepared people to face and overcome adversity due to challenging environmental and social contexts requiring high levels of expertise and responsibility. Warrior societies routinely created extraordinarily strong, clear minded individuals with well developed survival skills. Confinement on reserves caused decaying of survival and social skills, loss of status, and role confusion. Many individuals became dispirited and disempowered, and numerous social problems emerged due to colonization, cultural interference, and subsequent dependent status. Symptoms of disempowerment include addictions, family violence, poor health, suicide, child welfare involvement, and high rates of incarceration. Social workers and social service programs must assist in breaking cycles of dependency and disempowerment; however, these social problems are complex and often resistant to treatment. Effects of colonization and trauma might be ameliorated by applying Warrior philosophies. Because Warriors are the direct opposite of disempowerment, the Warrior identity can serve as an antidote for cycles of hopelessness, escape/avoidance behaviour, and dependency. The purpose of this exploratory study was to determine whether Warriorship philosophy as a model for social work practice can have relevance, meaningful support, or positive benefits for descendants of Warrior societies. Studying Warriors might provide information about survival skills and transformational knowledge useful in solving modem social problems. To build a picture of Warriorship, a literature review explored Warrior concepts followed by a talking circle composed of traditional Aboriginal social workers. Elders and cultural practitioners were consulted throughout the study to ensure proper protocols were followed. Findings revealed similarities, differences, and connections between Warriorship and social work, especially regarding power and authority. Empowerment as a Warrior means developing abilities to handle freedom wisely and responsibly. Warriors are ideals of character, attitude, and behaviour, and Warriorship is still seen as an important and significant role. Social work is another kind of battle for contemporary Warriors. This study has relevance for evolving Indigenous social work practice models. Social work in the past has contributed to disempowerment within Aboriginal communities. New models of social work practice are needed. Warrior philosophies, concepts, and methods can be applied to developing assessment or treatment models, and prevention strategies.
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