The Indigenous Experience is an infographic presentation on the Indigenous people and their survival through historical trauma, marginalization, and systemic racism in the United States. Angelina Torres and Lucy Gahm have developed this project to bring awareness to the vibrant Native American culture and highlight the resiliency of Indigenous people, practicing their culture and thriving today across the country.
Angelina and Lucy are both 2021 Title lV-E graduates and have received their MSWs from Humboldt State University. Angelina is Native American and Lucy is Caucasian. Both are first generation college students, and passionate about social work and serving the underserved communities. They became friends through the MSW program, and for their masters project they decided to partner together and collaborate on The Indigenous Experience
“All through the creation of our project we would talk on the phone/text almost every day during our final semester. It was a little funny because we both have very different personalities and yet we couldn't have completed the MSW program without each other,” Angelina reveals. “Lucy is so friendly and outgoing, and I am a little more reserved but we totally clicked. I am so grateful for this project because I gained a friend in the process.”
The germination of the project started through a collaboration with Gabriela Fischer, CalSWEC Program and Policy Analyst, Michelle Rainer, SERVE and Pathway Project Coordinator, and Vida Castaneda, CalSWEC Advisory Board member, to create an infographic presentation that would serve as a curriculum resource for the Title IV-E ICWA Modules. These lesson plan modules are meant to provide a cultural, historical and political context to working with tribal communities and applying the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Angelina and Lucy hope The Indigenous Experience will provide education to future social workers, and illustrate the importance of understanding Native American culture, the impact of colonization, the importance of ICWA, and the resilience of the Indigenous people.
“Our infographic is a tool that could help change the way people and social workers view Native American people. We wanted to be a part of something that showed the beauty of this culture,” reflect the Title lV-E graduates. CalSWEC and the Image Council of NASW-California have selected The Indigineous Experience for special recognition this year for its meaningful contribution as an infographic training resource for the social work community.
Lucy and Angelina are currently employed at Humboldt County Child Welfare Services. Lucy finds her work very rewarding and remarks, “Over the past couple of years working at Child Welfare Services I have learned that we as social workers for child welfare hold a lot of power and my wish has always been to use that power to raise the voices of the kids in the system—to share that power with the kids and to be able to advocate not only what others want, but to truly listen to what the kids want.” In her spare time Lucy enjoys nature with loved ones, exploring new places and being outside in the sun.
Angelina is grateful that her work at Child Welfare Services is helping Native American families. “The work is hard,” she says, “but because I can go to work and honor my culture, that keeps me going.” Angelina plans to become a licensed clinical social worker, continue her studies to earn a law degree, and work for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) helping underserved populations. She loves spending time with her children, watching her daughter play basketball, taking walks together and finding new places to explore.