Reconsidering Maslow and the hierarchy of needs from a First Nations’ perspective



Blackfoot, Abraham Maslow, Hierarchy of Needs, Blackfoot ways of knowing


INTRODUCTION: Abraham Maslow created one of the most enduring psychological constructs, the hierarchy of needs. Maslow, himself, did not create the oft-shown pyramid but it is the image that comes to mind when the construct is mentioned. There have also been reports that Maslow’s work fails to give due credit to the Blackfoot peoples of Southern Alberta for their seminal contribution to the hierarchy. There is a vibrant debate in the literature and in public spaces regarding this. Such a debate may not matter as Maslow’s construct does not represent Blackfoot philosophy. Hierarchical needs of understanding are not representative of their world view and the place of self-actualisation is very contrary to Maslow’s understanding. Maslow’s own writings do not support the notion that Blackfoot knowledge influenced him greatly in respect of the construct. In concert with the Elder knowledge keeper in the project, we explore the history of Maslow and the Blackfoot people along with knowledge held by Elder wisdom.

APPROACH: The article concludes by suggesting that Blackfoot ways of knowing represent their own views and that Maslow’s hierarchy has never been their understanding.

IMPLICATIONS: Social workers are, thus, invited to critically assess the theories used in practice and their relevance and validity for the populations engaged in their work.

Author Biographies

Elder Roy Bear Chief - Oom Kapisi, Mount Royal University

Siksika Elder and Espoom Taah

Peter Choate, Mount Royal University

Professor of Social Work

Gabrielle Lindstrom , Mount Royal University

Tsa'pinaki. Assistant Professor, Indigenous Studies, Mount Royal University


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How to Cite

Bear Chief - Oom Kapisi, E. R., Choate, P., & Lindstrom , G. (2022). Reconsidering Maslow and the hierarchy of needs from a First Nations’ perspective. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 34(2), 30–41. Retrieved from



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