College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

Women's & Gender Studies


social work, settler colonialism, decolonization, Native/Indigenous, intersectionality


Social work education and practice have been historically complacent in settler colonialism and, many times, perpetrated acts of settler violence against Native peoples. Thus, it is incumbent on graduate social work education to include curricula related to this topic. This is a master's thesis in Women's and Gender Studies which uses focus groups to explore how the Department of Social Work at DePaul University teaches about settler colonialism, decolonization, and Native peoples. Three themes were identified through focus group discussion: a lack of structural competency wherein students are not taught to treat settler colonialism as a structure which foregrounds social relations in the US, neglect of settler colonial history wherein students are taught minimally about the history of social work as a field and even lesser still about the ways in which early social workers capitalized on their gendered settler subjectivity by perpetrating family separations and attempted assimilation of Native children, and inconsistent practices of land acknowledgement which often do not lead to more meaningful learning or action. This thesis explores students' experiences in these regards and offers recommendations to the department in order to more effectively teach on these critical topics.