Professor Hilary Weaver named a NASW Social Work Pioneer®

Portrait of Hilary Weaver.

Published October 1, 2020


Congratulations to Professor Hilary Weaver on being named a National Association for Social Workers (NASW) Social Work Pioneer®. The program honors members of the social work profession who have contributed to the evolution and enrichment of the profession. The Pioneer Program identifies and recognizes individuals whose unique dedication, commitment, and determination have improved social and human conditions. Weaver is only the fourth Native American to be inducted into the NASW Pioneers Program. This honor will be celebrated virtually in October 2020. 

Dean Nancy J. Smyth stated to Professor Weaver, "What a remarkable honor — it is wonderful to see your work recognized by such prestigious, ground-breaking, social work colleagues."

Pioneering Contributions

Hilary Noel Weaver, DSW, has continually worked to promote awareness of important issues that affect indigenous people and communities throughout her social work practice and academic career.  Although social work has traditionally focused on helping the most needy and impoverished, often the needs of indigenous peoples are neither known nor recognized. Yet indigenous peoples around the world are among the poorest and most vulnerable. For years, Weaver has educated many and developed programs to spread knowledge about indigenous peoples and improve their wellbeing. In the United States she has helped to increase understanding through her teaching at three schools of social work: the University of Idaho, the George Warren Brown School of Social Work in St. Louis, and most recently at the University of Buffalo where she serves as Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.  

Weaver has extended her work with indigenous people around the world by presenting at international conferences in Taiwan, Canada, Sweden. Australia, Israel, Croatia, Korea, Uganda, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Brazil, and Germany, and by spending a semester teaching in New Zealand at the University of Waikato. As a co-teacher, she added Native American content and her Maori counterparts provided the Maori content. For many years at the United Nations, Dr. Weaver has presented at the annual Indigenous Forum on different indigenous issues affecting indigenous populations. Her presentations have frequently been met by standing room only audiences.

Weaver has won numerous awards for her contributions to promoting indigenous issues including the prestigious American Indian Elder Award, given by the Indigenous and Tribal Social Work Educators' Association. This award is usually reserved for an older person with great wisdom and she was the youngest person ever to receive this award. Weaver is an accomplished author having written six books and many referred journal articles and book chapters. Funders have recognized how important her voice and contributions are and thus she was named Principal Investigator (PI) by the National Cancer Institute to explore cancer among indigenous peoples. As part of this grant and because she knew about the stresses on indigenous youth—especially those in cities—she designed a Wellness curriculum for urban indigenous youth.

While most of her work has been on indigenous peoples, Weaver is very aware of the importance of educating students and others about respect for and inclusion of all voices. Her current work as Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has provided an opportunity to promote this agenda at the University of Buffalo and beyond. This has been demonstrated by her sponsorship and participation in programs which focused on Syrian refugees, environmental justice, poverty and income inequality, race in higher education, and many other diversity-related topics.

In addition to her important roles as educator and author she also has been involved in advocacy and practice activities. For example, her involvement with a social change initiative in western New York State. She joined a group of Native Americans in response to the contentious use of Native American images as mascots for sports teams or advertising. A suburban school district there still referred to a sports team as “Redskins.” The school board, however, was interested in examining the meaning of mascots and possibly eliminating images and names deemed to be racist. Weaver assumed a leadership role in talking to the school board, staff, students, and community leaders individually as well as in groups. She continually used important social work skills of mediation and facilitation in her discussion with different groups of supporters and opponents. Her efforts were successful as the school system finally decided to eliminate their previous mascot image. This local change effort received widespread attention and Weaver was interviewed by the New York Times and the Washington Post also covered this story.

Weaver as has been a member of NASW since her student days and has served as head of the North Branch of NASW in Idaho, as well as on the national NASW board. She also has served in leadership positions at the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), as she has been on a commission, and now is the Vice Chair/Secretary for the CSWE Governing Board.

For more, visit the NASW Pioneer website link above.