In Celebration of Social Work Month & Women’s History Month

March 2, 2023

In Celebration of Social Work Month & Women’s History Month

Dear CSSW Community, 

March is both Social Work Month and Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate and reflect on the generations of often-overlooked hard work and sacrifices of women and social workers in the United States. It unfortunately remains true that women who have historically been pushed to the margins on account of their race, sexual identity, belief systems, and/or socioeconomic status are less likely to be recognized for their resounding impact on myriad communities and individuals. In addition, the extraordinary work and impact of social work professionals are often under-recognized and too rarely celebrated. As social work education emphasizes, feminism must be intersectional for successful advocacy and harm reduction – so we’d like to uplift the story of Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, a leader in social work education and advocate for Indigenous communities. 

As part of her research in an advocacy course at CSSW, MSW student Arija Bareikis asks us to direct our attention to Dr. Brave Heart’s story. Born in 1953, Dr. Brave Heart is known for developing a model of historical trauma for the Lakota people and other Indigenous groups –  she herself being Hunkpapa, Oglala Lakota. After receiving her MSW from CSSW in 1976, she worked tirelessly to gather data on Indigenous community historical trauma impacts, finding that many Native Americans are unable to fulfill the “American Dream” due to the intergenerational trauma and oppression that work to keep vulnerable communities immobilized and in collective mourning. Dr. Brave Heart has created a multi-step grief intervention process that involves unearthing historical trauma through the lens of education, understanding, and resolution. She has served on the board of the Council on Social Work Education as well as an advisor to the National Indian Country Child Trauma Center, and has established a South Dakota Native nonprofit organization: the Takini Network. 

We’d like to extend our gratitude to Arija for lifting up a social work pioneer whose influence has helped people transcend the grief that so often accompanies historical trauma. 

This month, we urge you to uplift the scholarship and perspectives of women, and the lives and contributions of social workers. Seeking out these oft-forgotten stories is one of many first steps in recognizing conscious and unconscious biases; we must always commit to challenging dominant narratives, and support women and social workers everywhere. Not just during the month of March, but always. 

In community,

Melissa Begg

Dean & Professor

Karma Lowe

Senior Associate Dean for DEI, Enrollment, & Community Engagement