Resisting the White Settler Colonial Nation-State: Lessons From Indigenous Land-Based Teachings and Their Implications for Social Work Education


  • Mehmoona Moosa-Mitha University of Victoria



land-based teachings, Indigenous knowledge, reconciliation, social work pedagogy 


Land-based teachings are normatively understood as being unique to Indigenous philosophy, ethics, and politics. Liberal political realities and worldviews, particularly as they appear in normative scholarship on the welfare state and social work, treat land as an uninterrogated blank space that is uninformed by everyday social work practices. In this article I argue that the white settler colonial welfare state as a (neo) liberal political project is grounded in and even defined by land-based assumptions, at the level of discourse and practice, that deeply inform state and, by extension, social work practices. I examine creation stories of the Haudenosaunee people as well as from Christian and liberal Enlightenment sources, which are all land-based, to extract differing visions that guide their everyday practices. Taking my cue from Indigenous land-based teachings, I offer four lessons that can be learned by social work educators seeking to include reconciliation as part of their decolonizing pedagogy: (a) politicizing critical social work education by linking it to land-based practices; (b) understanding socially just social work practices as horizontal in nature and across multiple nations; (c) viewing social work- client relationships in terms of reciprocal gift relationships; and (d) incorporating a cyclical view of time in their practice.

Author Biography

Mehmoona Moosa-Mitha, University of Victoria

Dr Moosa-Mitha is an associate professor at the University of Victoria School of Social Work. Her research interests include transnational geo-political feminist analysis on forced migration, decolonizing social work education, and critical citizenship studies. Much of her research is situated within community-based participatory approaches to research.






Special Topics: Decolonizing Social Work