Episode 129 - Agnes Williams: Native Americans and a Human Rights and Trauma-Informed Perspective

Monday, October 14, 2013, 9:56:42 AM

Image of Agnes Williams, LMSW

In this episode, Ms. Agnes Williams, a member of the Seneca Nation, uses her Nation's experience as a context to discuss cultural appreciation. She also explores the concept of historical trauma as well as the ideals of human rights and social justice, and how those ideals have been compromised. Additionally, she reflects on her work with social work student interns and the need to take affirmative steps to provide support for Native American social work students.

Download MP3 (51.4 MB)

Audio Transcript PDF document.

Listener Reviews

4 Reviews
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
Average Listener Review

Average Rating: 4.5 stars (4 listener reviews )

Share your thoughts with others

Create Your Own Review

Average Rating: 5stars  mending the hoop, Wednesday, January 30, 2019

By Meschelle Linjean :

Ms. Williams effectively contextualizes human rights and trauma-informed care for application to indigenous peoples, especially American Indians. Listening to this podcast was timely for me as I recently attended the Indigenous Peoples March and a blanket exercise, which highlighted historical trauma and the need for repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, which Ms. Williams discussed. The blanket exercise, focused on reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, has a similar purpose to the commemoration activities for the Two Row Wampum treaty that Ms. Williams discussed - to renew the Great Law of Peace and polish the chain of friendship between the Haudenosaunee and non-Natives. I appreciated Ms. Williams’ discussion of UNDRIP and the close connection between indigenous peoples with their natural environment, juxtaposed against colonizers’ values of entitlement and domination over indigenous peoples and the natural world, particularly as most natural resources are on Native land. Ms. Williams explains the human rights we seek as the right to exist (as indigenous peoples) and to have informed consent to things that affect our own futures. This is extremely important, as discussed in the interview, in the context of globalization and expansion of extractive industries and hazardous wastes that threaten our lives through polluting our environment, and now with man camps that bring human trafficking and greater violence against women. Such dangers, along with social problems stemming from U.S. policies (reservations, boarding schools, adoption era) that wreaked havoc on traditional ways of life and parenting skills, creates an environment of high stress, physical and mental health issues. Through these examples, Ms. Williams connects historical trauma with modern problems and trauma in a way that effectively illustrates the application of the ecological model of social work and trauma-informed care when working with indigenous people.

Flag This


Average Rating: 5stars  understanding trauma , Wednesday, January 10, 2018

By Anonymous :

I enjoyed how Ms. Williams have clarification about the North East belief system and how the teas Indian and Native American came about. For me she game me an idea of mapping out the historical content behind the nature of the world. I liked how she highlighted the biological expansion and the 70% of diseases rates that had no relation to the natives however the Europeans blamed the natives. One thing that I would like to learn more about is the doctrine of discovery that she was discussing. She highlights the human right of one’s culture and many have been robbed from the knowledge about their culture and values, she gave an example about Indians with dark skin who many not know where they came from or their culture. Overall I agree with enhancing the curriculum and enlightening others so that they can know about their culture.

Flag This


Average Rating: 4stars  great discussion, Saturday, February 01, 2014

By Jen VK :

I really enjoyed this podcast. Ms. Williams illustrates how multifaceted trauma can be. Everything from psychology, biology, ecology, to history play a part in a person's current state. I think the macro work she talks about is great, and it shows the importance of looking at our clients' systems and everything that influences their lives. For the Native American culture in particular, I can see where this kind of social work practice would have a strong impact. Taking into consideration that this involves people from a heritage who's history unfortunately involves the stripping of a rich culture and separation of strong bonds within tribes, a sense of community could mean a lot. Not only would these types of events bring attention to the culture, but I think even advertising an event like that makes an impact outside of the Native American community as it brings awareness to others that these events exist, and exist for a reason. I would be interested in seeing how community outreach events such as the ones Ms. Williams discussed have an impact on the Native American community and if it has in fact helped bring awareness to the issues this community faces.

Flag This


Average Rating: 4stars  a history of trauma, Thursday, January 30, 2014

By Jocie B :

This was a wonderful podcast that explained the plight of the Native American population in a short amount of time and was able to get to the heart of many issues of institutional discrimination and human rights issues with this indigenous population. Ms. Agnes Williams highlighted the importance of understanding human rights infringements and the importance of utilizing a trauma-informed approach with this population. It is interesting to consider that American, a country so determined to help promote change, can still have such an underrepresented and discriminated against population right within its borders. Historical trauma is still affecting the Native Americans on reservations. There are higher rates of suicide and physical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and the average life expectancy is only 54 years. This population is still recovering from a history of trauma. It is important for social workers to understand that entire generations were stripped of their culture and identity and how this understanding can help working with this population.

There was also an interesting discussion regarding the Ecological Model and how this relates to this population’s philosophy and can interrelate to the practice of social work. The “one dish one spoon” philosophy of Native Americans, that we are all connected in some way to each other and the earth, is very in tune with some social work ideals and can give guidance towards macro, mezzo, and micro practice.

Flag This

DISCLAIMER: The content shared by the presenter(s) and/or interviewer(s) of each podcast is their own and not necessarily representative of any views, research, or practice from the UB School of Social Work or the inSocialWork® podcast series.