Beyond “Indigenous Social Work” and Toward Decolonial Possibility: Stories from Toronto’s Red Road


  • Nicole Penak Independent Scholar
  • Rochelle Allen Independent Scholar


decolonial, Indigenous, social work, storytelling, landmarks


While social work has been a specific technology of settler colonialism levied against Indigenous Peoples, the phenomenon of “Indigenous social work” is now rather comfortably discussed and included within university curricula and places of social work practice. This article is a creative adaptation of a research project with four generations of Indigenous social workers in Toronto, culminating in 10 intersecting short stories that work to make visible “the Good Red Road” in the city. The story landmark shared here is one of these stories, a pit stop along the road. Its function exists somewhere between that of petroglyphs, and carving your name into wet cement. It helps mark where we have been as Indigenous social workers, how we imprint onto the landscape, and how the Land can guide us in important directions.  This landmark is an invitation for those involved in Indigenous social work to not only consider the story pathways we have created, but how these story landmarks could lead Indigenous Peoples, communities, and Nations to destinations previously foreclosed to our imaginaries by the boundaries of our professional survival. That what may lay between us and decolonial possibilities, is our refusal of the profession itself.

Author Biographies

Nicole Penak, Independent Scholar

Nicole is a social work practitioner and scholar in Toronto.

Rochelle Allen, Independent Scholar

Rochelle is an Anishinaabe language practitioner and scholar in Toronto.






Special Topics: Decolonizing Social Work