Maslow’s hierarchy connected to Blackfoot beliefs

You always have a choice.

A Digital Native American

This slide shows basic differences between Western and First Nations perspectives, as presented by University of Alberta professor Cathy Blackstock at the 2014 conference of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. This slide shows basic differences between Western and First Nations perspectives, as presented by University of Alberta professor Cathy Blackstock at the 2014 conference of the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

I first heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in an advertising course I took in college many years ago. I remember looking at the pyramid and its five layers – with basic needs at the bottom and “self-actualization” at the top – and thinking that self-actualization belonged in the foundation.

It turns out I was thinking like a Blackfoot.

At a conference last week of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, I learned that Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychology, borrowed generously from the Blackfoot people to refine his motivational theory on the hierarchy of needs.

Briefly, Maslow’s theory suggests that humans are motivated to fulfill first the most basic of needs, such as…

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