Aboriginal Social Work Competence: Smudging

Aboriginal Social Work Competence: Smudging

Aboriginal Social Work Smudging Paper

Social Work Competence

Social workers have the responsibility to help a group of people, families, and even individuals cope with problems, thus facilitating the overall improvement in the quality of their lives. These professionals need to be culturally competent by recognizing the possible biases of individuals from different cultural backgrounds. Aboriginal social workers help clients from the First Nations tribes to deal with social issues like substance abuse and mental health problems. They employ tools like education, advocacy, case management group and individual counselling, and the use of interviews in times of crisis (Hick, 2006).

Indigenous People Smudging

Aboriginal social work competence is necessary for individuals working with First Nations People and is a competency-based model that tends to incorporate abilities and skills. This facilitates cultural safety whereby the individuals are emotionally, socially, physically, and spiritually safe, thus making it conducive to identifying with their culture.

By gaining cultural competence, the social workers are more respectful and mindful of the relationship-building in the culture. This helps the First Nations people deal with social issues like unresolved trauma, widespread grief, loss, and cultural loss over the years. Social work for people in this community. Aboriginal social work requires the individual to incorporate the First Nations history to contextualize the social issues (Hick, 2006).

The colonial history facilitates the contextualization of the physical and social pathologies, thus providing cultural and knowledge reflection. Additionally, they get to apply anti-oppressive social work education to recognize that the First Nations people have suffered significant injustice since the arrival of the Europeans in their Native land. This indicates the rising awareness of the Aboriginal culture in Canada, along with the attempt to repair the damage caused by colonization on the First Nations People.

Aboriginal Worldview

The first guiding principle for social work practice in the Aboriginal context is the recognition of the unique view of the Aboriginal people on the world in general. This means understanding the culture and history of the First Nations people in Canada (Hick, 2006). A worldview is a lens via which culture is interpreted, thus making it the belief system that is often a result of the culture. A worldview can be held by society, a group of people r an individual. The social workers need to understand the traditional knowledge that is often shared in the sacred places of the Aboriginal people.

Additionally, the social worker gets to know and understand the language used by the First Nations people, which is often very unique from the mainstream languages in Canada, namely English and French. Social workers need to know that the First Nations people, regardless of their level of formal education, have a unique view of the world based on their history.

Often, the First Nations learner gains the ability to express their culture to the rest of the world, without the interference of outsiders (Hick, 2006). Therefore the provision of education to the Aboriginals would be a very effective means of preserving and even documenting the uniqueness of the tribe more accurately. By studying the world view of the First Nations people, the social worker can understand the interaction between the individual and the rest of the society.

Aboriginal Social Work Competence: Smudging

The worldview of the Aboriginals is distinct from the Western worldview often held by most social workers is the essence of spirituality. First Nations people have a spiritually oriented society, a system whose basis is based on belief. This is different from the western world view, where faith requires proof according to the scientific method.

Skepticism in Modern Worldview

Skepticism is encouraged, unlike the aboriginal worldview where unquestionable belief in the culture of the tribe is necessary. The Aboriginal worldview appreciates subjectivity, whereby the truth depends on the experience of the individual. This is distinct from the western worldview, where objectivity is valued with the holding of only one truth represented by the facts obtained via the scientific method (Sinclair, 2019).

The society of the Aboriginal people operates in an interconnected manner, a state of relatedness. Here, everything is related to recognizing that environments, objects, and people are all related. This is propagated in the culture via values and traditions, spirituality, and kinship. This trait is distinct from the western world view, which is more compartmentalized (Hick, 2006).

Among the First Nations people in Canada, the land is a sacred asset for the community and is granted to them by the supreme creator of the universe. This is distinct from the Western world view, where land is an asset that can be owned by the individual and exploited for economic purposes. In the worldview of the First Nations, time is nonlinear and is cyclical, with the seasons being a central aspect in their understanding of the concept of time. Additionally, comfort is measured on the basis the relationships with other people.

The Social workers ought to recognize the fact that the First Nations people were severely affected by colonization. This includes the uneased relationship between the Federal government and the Aboriginal people. Here, the Western people interrupted the political system, which was based on cooperation and kinship rather than authority and governmental structures (Hick, 2006).


The Aboriginal tribe has, over the bears, been trying to be sovereign from the Canadian government. Decolonization is the second principle of the understanding of the First Nations people. This is the process of recognizing the impact of colonization on the First Nations people. They include the exploitation research by the westerners, cultural assimilation, genocide, and colonial expansion.

One of the greatest proof of the colonization of the Aboriginal people in Canada is that they rely on the western political structure to decolonize. They have, over the centuries, been dispossessed their culture with tools like the Residential schools used in the mid to late Twentieth Century (Hick, 2006). The process of decolonization occurs when the First Nations people reverse the negative effect of the interruption of their way of life by the European invaders.

This includes providing the people to take care of their affairs, a process known as self-determination. Here the social workers are required to make a conscious attempt to learn about the e culture of the aboriginal culture. They aid in the identification of practices and belief systems that resulted from the colonial process. The colonization process is often destructive and aggressive, bearing great consequences to the Aboriginal people (Sinclair, 2019). Therefore, it must be met with an equal countering process to restore the well-being of the individual Aboriginals and the tribes at large.

After this, the beliefs and practices of the indigenous people are reclaimed, thus leading to success. The fact that there are no permanent and universal solutions to the adversity caused by the colonization of the First Nations people, social workers have the responsibility to repatriate the practices required in the sustenance of the well-being of the community at large. The social workers facilitate pen dialogue with the First Nations people to determine the process of having positive transformation to the society.

Recognition of the Traditions and Knowledge

The third principle that underlines an Indigenous approach to social practice is the recognition of the traditions and knowledge as an active and critical aspect of the collective consciousness and identity of the Aboriginal people in Canada. Culture is the social behaviour, customs, values, and ideas, thus living a given tribe (Hick, 2006). Culture has been passed down among the Aboriginals from one generation to another through tools like an oral tradition.

The First Nations People often believe that language, ceremonies, laws, family, and land are interconnected aspects. The kinship system connects the family to the ownership of land and another resource which are often passed down via inheritance across generations (Hick, 2006). The particular roles and responsibilities are often observed in the ceremonies that connect the Aboriginals’ present, past, and future generations.

Indigenous People Smudging

The Aboriginal culture has been a tool for dealing with the negative consequences of the invasion of Europe to the native land of the First Nations people. Understanding the culture and traditions of the Aboriginal people provides the social workers with empathy for the way of living, something that improves their overall quality of life during and after the decolonization process. Additionally, the social workers can facilitate the increased influence of the First Nations people in the determination of their welfare through unity (Hick, 2006).

Understanding the rich cultural heritage of the First Nations people helps understand their cultural history through their sacred places. The character and identity of the First Nations people have facilitated the swift appreciation, taking pride, and strengthening the First Nations sense of pride in their culture. This helps improve the understanding of the social worker’s character and identity, which facilitates the overall appreciation of the culture of the First Nation’s people.

Empowerment of First Nations People

The final principle is the empowerment of the First Nations People through the appreciation and control of the model components of their culture in general. The First Nation’s people can be empowered by developing a collective and shared vision of the First Nations’ people. Additionally, even though the negative consequences of marginalization and colonization, it is important that this process reduces marginalization. Further, quality education can be provided to the children of the Aboriginal people, which is customized to their cultural heritage (Hick, 2006).

The social workers ought to collaborate with them for the sake of development and the implementation of entrepreneurship programs. This mechanism is effective and full in facilitating the proper governance of the First Nation’s people in the future. The social workers are encouraged to take an active role in identifying the need of the First Nations people and educating them on how they can exploit the opportunities provided to them by them. They can also educate them on the focus on human rights to empower for the overall enhancement of their well-being in general. The maintenance and pursuit of the well-being of the First Nations people facilitate the maximization and the overall human need fulfillment (Hick, 2006).

The social workers are therefore advocating for the social justice and human dignity of the First Nations people. Here, social justice tends to encompass the fundamental needs that hider the achievement of human potential in recognition of community and human rights. Additionally, even though they have been marginalized for centuries, they have human rights and are advocated for as a disadvantaged group in the historical context. The social worker recognizes that the First Nations people have had their welfare deserted for years, which social workers have a role to play.

In my endeavour as a social worker who advocates for the right of the First Nations people in Canada, I have had an opportunity to attend a smudging ceremony. This ceremony involves the burning of sacred herbs like sage and tobacco and d often practiced by the First Nations people (Hick, 2006). Due to the negative consequences of colonization, smudging had been banned because it was considered secular and thus a threat to the spread of the Christian way of life among the First Nations people.

To improve my cultural sensitivity with the First Nations people, I attended a smudging ceremony on 15 October 2021 in the Indigenous Student’s Center in the Student Union Building on the Abbotsford campus. This was in the commencement of a collaborative ceremony advocating academic support for the First Nations students in Canada.

Aboriginal Social Work Smudging

I believe that smudging is a ceremony any social worker who intends to work along with the First Nations people ought to attend, thus getting a real-life experience with the tradition of the First Nation’s people. This is in line with the four principles of the Aboriginal model of practicing social work. By attending the ceremony, I understood the First Nation people’s world view, which helped me realize that it is very distinct from the Western world view (Hick, 2006).

The collaboration of the elders in the ceremony was a sign of the collective nature of the culture of the First Nation’s people. This is a spiritual endeavour that cultivates the collective consciousness of the Aboriginal people across generations. Additionally, the First Nation’s people understand how they can pursue empowerment of the community members in general.

Aboriginal Social Work Smudging Reflection

Having attended a smudging ceremony in person and watched it online, I realize that it serves various functions among the First Nations People in Canada. It is a spiritual ceremony that connects the Aboriginal people with their creator and across generations. The First Nations people get the opportunity to improve their overall spiritual well-being. Even though I had attended the ceremony to understand the culture of the First Nation’s people in Canada, I realize that it directly impacts my well-being in general.


Despite exponentially increasing awareness of the culture of the First Nation’s people, I was very wary of attending the ceremony, something that I can attribute to the fact I had no direct and intimate interaction with the First Nations people in Canada. Additionally, I have earlier dismissed it as a mere symbolic ceremony that directly impacts the people attending it and is a mere means of cohesion with the First Nations people in Canada. Additionally, based on the fact that I am agnostic, the representation of the Supreme Being among the Aboriginal people in Canada was rather conflicting to me.

Online Smudging Ceremonies

Despite my numerous reservations, I attended the ceremony and later have watched several smudging ceremonies online. This was because I learned that the ceremony is a cleansing ceremony that indicates honour to the First Nations people and their way of living. After attending the ceremony, I realized that it had affected my perception of the tradition of the First Nation’s people and my well-being at the time. I appreciate that the theme might be a mere placebo effect of attending a collective ceremony with the First Nation’s people. The cleaning has resulted in an inner sense of calmness and a deeper connection to other people in the ceremony.

Indigenous People Smudging

Smudging encompasses the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical. Evidentially the smudging ceremony physically takes place, reflecting a spiritual pursuit. Before attending the ceremony, my main concern was physical; for example, the impact of the smoke from the sage on my respiratory well-being with questions amounts the content of the smoke. Additionally, I had concerns that inhaling the smoke would have a mental effect, thus clouding my judgment and perception of the ceremony, especially for academic purposes. For me, the act of drawing the smoke towards the mouth was an indication of acceptance and the pursuit of cleansing. Therefore cleansing is a deliberate effort. Despite it being physical, it tends to have some spiritual significance.

My prevailing emotion before attending the ceremony was anticipatory fear. Having attended the ceremony, I had an overwhelming sense of calmness that made me feel that the initial senses of anxiety as unjustified. This made me reflect on the various ways I might have misjudged the culture of the First Nations People. Additionally, I began to view smudging as a spiritual ceremony rather than a dramatic physical activity.

Therefore, I feel that the smudging ceremony facilitated the overall improvement in my well-being in general and an appreciation of the way of living of the First Nation’s People. The elders in the ceremony informed me that they have inherited the practice and were directly taught by their elders, and they intend to pass it down in the reservation of the way of living of the First Nations People. Despite it being a mere ceremony, it has a long-lasting and intergenerational impact on the Aboriginal people in Canada and the rest of the culture of the First Nations people. This was an indication of the appreciation of the concept of wholeness among the First nation’s people.

I would emphasize that the smudging ceremony not only improved my appreciation of the culture of the First Nations People. Additionally, it helped me reflect on whether I was considering all the aspects of my well-being in general. Even with the recognition that I am agnostic, I had severely deserted my spiritual well-being and often dismissed my emotional well-being as merely superficial.

As a social worker, the smudging ceremony was one of the most illuminating activities on the richness of the culture of the First Nations people in Canada. I learned that it is essential for me to attend other ceremonies in the pursuit of understanding the First Nations people, something that improves the quality of my services (Baker & Verrelli, 2017).

Additionally, attending the ceremony created a sense of trust between me, as an outsider, and the Aboriginal people. I also learned that I may have to continue cleansing in my interaction with the First Nations people to realize that I am now aware of the ceremony and its overall effect on the individual and the group in attendance. This made me appreciate my pursuit to be a social worker, as it allows me to make a positive impact on the lives of people and learn about the diversity of culture in Canada and across the globe.

Welcoming First Nations People Culture

Additionally, despite the negative consequences of colonization on the lives of the First Nations people, I realized that they were still welcoming to the outsiders and had not allowed resentment to separate them from the rest of the world. Social workers ought to attend such ceremonies to understand the people better and thus the best means of solving the problems they may face (Fanshawe Institute of Indigenous Learning. 2018). The ceremonies give the social worker to look at the current generation, and the past and future Aboriginal people, all of whom share a common culture.

social work

Aboriginal Social Work Smudging References

Baker, R. G., & Verrelli, N. (2017). “Smudging, drumming and the like do not a nation make”: Temporal Liminality and Delegitimization of Indigenous Protest in Canada. Journal of Canadian Studies51(1), 37-63.

Fanshawe Institute of Indigenous Learning. (2018). One Take | What is Smudging? [Video]. Retrieved 10 November 2021, from

Hick, S. (2006). Social work in Canada. Toronto: Thompson EducationalPublishing.

Sinclair, R. (2019). Aboriginal social work education in Canada: Decolonizing pedagogy for the seventh generation. First Peoples Child & Family Review14(1), 9-21.

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