Volume 3, Issue 1 – The Health of Urban Aboriginal People: From Woundedness to Resilience

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In 1938, Abraham Maslow conducted research among the Northern Blackfoot in Alberta, near Geichen and Cluny. As a budding psychologist, he was interested in certain cross-cultural issues: wealth, dominance and emotional security. He discovered that the Blackfoot idea of wealth was based not upon accumulation but upon generosity. He also discovered that some of his assumptions—that the drive to obtain power and to dominate were universal—was misguided. In his exploration of emotional security, he found, much to his amazement, that the Blackfoot were so emotionally secure “that about eighty to ninety percent of the population must be rated about as high in ego security as the most secure individuals in our [own] society, who compromise perhaps five to ten percent at most.”1 In trying to discover why this might be so, Maslow investigated child-rearing practices. He concluded that an emphasis upon personal responsibility was the explanation: parents encouraged their children to do things for themselves and not to expect parents to cater to their every need. As well, the development of close and warm social relationships, particularly as part of large and extended families, led to the creation of very emotionally secure individuals. Maslow’s ideas about human beings and their development were changed as a result of his encounter. He went on to develop the hierarchy of needs, based somewhat upon what he learned from Blackfoot elders.

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