NASW Pioneers Biography Index

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation is pleased to present the NASW Social Work Pioneers®. NASW Pioneers are social workers who have explored new territories and built outposts for human services on many frontiers. Some are well known, while others are less famous outside their immediate colleagues, and the region where they live and work. But each one has made an important contribution to the social work profession, and to social policies through service, teaching, writing, research, program development, administration, or legislation.

The NASW Pioneers have paved the way for thousands of other social workers to contribute to the betterment of the human condition; and they are are role models for future generations of social workers. The NASW Foundation has made every effort to provide accurate Pioneer biographies.  Please contact us at to provide missing information, or to correct inaccurate information. It is very important to us to correctly tell these important stories and preserve our history.  

Please note, an asterisk attached to a name reflects Pioneers who have passed away. All NASW Social Work Pioneers® Bios are Copyright © 2021 National Association of Social Workers Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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Hilary Noel Weaver, DSW
Hilary Noel Weaver

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 Chair-elect for the CSWE Governing Board and will become Board Chair next year. She was also appointed by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) as the inaugural Global Indigenous Commissioner.

Career Highlights

Weaver has worked as an administrator, educator, researcher, and author. She began her post-MSW professional social work career at United Way and the Center for Social Policy and Practice in the Workplace. In these positions she helped to expand access to marginalized people and populations. She transitioned to a career in academia where she first served as Coordinator of Social Work at the University of Idaho and most recently as Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Professor at the University of Buffalo.  

Weaver also has taught internationally as a Visiting Scholar teaching at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. She has been the keynote speaker at many international conferences around the world. Over her career she has been a very successful PI for grants from many nonprofit  foundations and agencies including the National Cancer Institute, the Wendt Foundation, the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, the Center for Research on Women and Girls, and NASW.  As a recognized leader on indigenous issues, she was selected as the President of the Indigenous and Tribal Social Work Educators' Association.

Biographic Data

Weaver was raised in Eastern Washington State, far away from the traditional territories of her ancestors. Like many American Indians, her Lakota grandparents had been removed from their families and placed in boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak their language, practice their culture, or religion. Weaver always was interested in social work and thus attended Antioch College, which had a co-op program where students spent half the time in the classroom and half the time in placement. There, she was able to explore different fields of social work. She graduated from Antioch in 1984 with a degree in social work with a cross cultural focus. This degree was followed by a MS in Social Work from Columbia University in 1986 and a Doctorate Degree in Social Work (DSW) from Columbia in 1994. Her dissertation was entitled “Enhancing the Health Status of Native American Youth in the Northeast.” 

Significant Achievements and Awards

Because of her many accomplishments in diverse fields of social work practice, Weaver has been the recipient of many awards including:

  • American Indian Elder Award;
  • Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender, Outstanding Social Work Educator; and,
  • Outstanding Faculty Awards from both the University of Idaho and the University of Buffalo. 

Significant Publications

Weaver is a prolific author who has published six books, as well as journal articles, and book chapters. Some of her most significant books on indigenous peoples and issues include:

  • Weaver, H.N. (2019). Trauma and Resilience in the Lives of Contemporary Native Americans: Reclaiming our Balance, Restoring our Wellbeing. Routledge Press. 240 pages.
  • Weaver, H.N. & Yuen, F.K. (eds.) (2016). All My Relations: Understanding the Experiences of Native Americans with Disabilities. London: Routledge Publishers. Reprint from Journal of Social Work in Disability and Rehabilitation, 14(3/4). 129 pages.
  • Weaver, H.N. (ed.) (2014). Social Issues in Contemporary Native America: Reflections from Turtle Island. Farnham, England: Ashgate Press. 250 pages.
  • Weaver, H.N. (2005). Explorations in Cultural Competence: Journeys to the Four Directions. Brooks-Cole Publishing. 306 pages.

Referred Journal articles include 

  • Weaver, H.N. (2020). Native American Peoples within the Boundaries of the United States: The Challenge of Balancing Inclusion and Sovereignty. Journal of Progressive Human Services, 30(3).
  • Weaver, H.N. (2016). Where Wounded Knee meets wounded knees: Skate parks and Native American youth. AlterNative, 12(5), 513-526.
  • Weaver, H. N. (2016). Between a rock and a hard place: A trauma-informed approach to documenting the traumatic experiences of Tamil refugees. Journal of Human Rights and Social Work, 1(3), 120-130.
  • Weaver, H.N. (2016). Developing a culturally appropriate assessment tool: Reflections on process considerations. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work.

Book chapters include

  • Weaver, H.N. (2020). A cruel and surreal result: Restrictions on indigenous spirituality in the land of the free. In J. Schiele (ed.), Social Welfare Policy: Regulation and Resistance among People of Color. San Diego: Cognella. P. 30-48. Substantial revision of 2011 chapter.
  • Weaver, H.N. (2019). Enhancing Indigenous Wellbeing: Applying Human Rights and Trauma-Informed Perspectives with Native Americans. In Trauma and Human Rights: Integrating Approaches to Address Human Suffering. Butler, L., Critelli, F. & Carello, J. (eds.). Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan Publishers. P. 75-98.
  • Weaver, H.N. (2019). We are beauty and we walk in it: Native American women in leadership roles. In T. Kleibl, R. Lutz, N. Noyoo, B. Bunk, A. Dittmann & B. Seepamore (eds.). The Routledge Handbook on Postcolonial Social Work. Routledge Press. London: Routledge. P. 174-184
  • Weaver, H.N. (2018). Native Americans. In Oxford Bibliographies in Social Work. Major revision of earlier publication.
  • Weaver, H.N. (2016). Wellness and Native American People. In Valire Copeland, editor. Contemporary Issues for People of Color: Surviving and Thriving in the U.S. Today, Vol. 4: Health and Wellness. 
  • Weaver, H.N. (2016). Ethics and Settler Societies: Reflections on Social Work and Indigenous Peoples. In R. Hugman & J. Carter (editors) Rethinking Values and Ethics in Social Work. Palgrave-Macmillan. 129-145.

Newly Inducted NASW Social Work Pioneer Hortense McClinton 2015

Nominate A New NASW Pioneer

Please note, Pioneer nominations made between today’s date through March 31, 2023, will not be reviewed until spring 2023.

Completed NASW Pioneer nominations can be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed at the June Pioneer Steering Committee Meeting. To be considered at the June meeting, submit your nomination package by March 31. To learn more, visit our Pioneer nomination guidelines.

New Pioneers 

Congratulations newly elected Pioneers!  Pioneers will be inducted at the 2023  Annual Program and Luncheon. Full biographies and event details coming soon.