Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1-31-2014


Aboriginal Field of Study, Faculty of Social Work


Previous literature has identified social capital as an important resource for successful community development activities, and there have been some attempts to adapt the concepts of social capital to the particular context of First Nations. However, little information is available about how social capital itself might be developed or improved in Aboriginal communities. Moreover, urban Aboriginal communities are different from rural First Nations, Inuit or Métis communities in structure, composition, activities, and diversity, and deserve specific attention and their own models of community development. This paper presents a framework to guide development initiatives in urban Aboriginal contexts that is drawn from Aboriginal cultural principles and connected to the academic literature on development and social capital. Intended to provide practical advice to community leaders and practitioners, the framework includes five “tenets”: strategic planning; Elders and children; prayers and medicines; responsibility and ownership; and mentoring and role modelling.


Dr. Gus Hill is an Anishnaabe (Ojibwe) Assistant Professor in the Aboriginal Field of Study, Faculty of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University. He currently teaches wholistic healing practices and critical Indigenous issues. Gus earned a doctorate from WLU in 2008, and his dissertation is entitled “Understanding Indigenous Canadian Health and Healing.” Prior to joining the Faculty of Social Work, he worked in child welfare, mental health, addictions treatment, corrections and private counseling. He is a member of Batchewana First Nation, in the Sault Ste. Marie area of Ontario, Canada. Email: Dr. Martin Cooke is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies and the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. His research areas are Canadian social policy and the health and social demography of Indigenous peoples. He is the academic co-lead on the Healthy Weights Connection project, an intervention to improve how local public health systems serve First Nations and Métis children. Email: