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Monday, 30 October 2017 05:07

Blackfoot culture influence on famous psychologist brought to life at university

Written by  Demi Knight
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Oct.18 marked the day that the University of Lethbridge heard the important story behind the Blackfoot Community and the influence that their way of life had on American psychologist Abraham Maslow.


Blackfoot member and scholar, Ryan Heavy Head and the Blackfoot Digital Library brought in crowds of people to the Anderson hall to tell not only the compelling story behind one of histories most influential psychologists, but also to highlight the Blackfoot community and proudly inform members of society the value of their culture.
The Digital Library Liaison, Adrienne Heavy Head says that this event is a powerful movement that lifts the Blackfoot community rather than suppresses it.
“People here don’t seem to know the contributions that Blackfoot people have made to culture. Especially people in southern Alberta that live so close to our culture. I think that to know what differences it has made and how it’s affecting our everyday lives is really important.”
“Especially since Blackfoot influence on Abraham Maslow’s work was really swept under rug at the time that he lived,” added Heavy Head.
Abraham Maslow, who is known as one of the founding fathers of psychology thanks to his contributions to motivational theory, normative human psychology, and organizational psychology, was prominent during a time where Native culture was not only disregarded but repressed says Heavy Head. 
While Maslow travelled during the summer of 1938, he stayed within Siksika, a Blackfoot reserve for 6 weeks, and during his stay Maslow’s perspective of human motivation was completely changed which resulted in his work and development of the hierarchy of needs (which remains to be, to this day one of the most pivotal psychological theories).
With his formation of these social constructs, became the disciplines of psychology, education, business and management as we know them as today.
However, the Blackfoot’s contribution to Maslow’s theory went widely unnoticed until research conducted by the late Narcisse Blood and Heavy Head at Red Crow College under the SSHRC-funded Itsinikssiistsi Project of 2004–2007. Here, findings were brought to the forefront of just how important this culture was to Maslow’s theories, that are now used everyday in modern societies.
“Many people during that time had a collective and colonial mindset where they thought they would wipe out native knowledge and culture throughout North America,” explained Heavy Head.
“But, I don’t believe it was his intent to come here and be part of that,” added Heavy Head on Maslow and his work found whilst with the Blackfoot reserve. “In fact, he did reference native people very heavily through certain works and through word of mouth but because of the way the academy was at the time he wasn’t allowed to publish certain works with native people being credited or else the entire piece would be discredited because of it.”
However, now that the research has been done, and we are moving forward in a progressive society that allows cultures to flourish rather than be minimized, the importance of this story is becoming more and more prevalent said Heavy Head.
“A lot of people really don’t know about this story at all. It wasn’t until 2010 when Columbia University finally found out about it and even around here I know people at the University still haven’t heard of it. Even though Ryan has been invited to speak at places all over the world about this story people here, that are so close to the culture still aren’t aware.”
The presentation took place at the University of Lethbridge in Anderson hall on Oct. 18, where Ryan Heavy Head continued to spread the word on this important piece of history that is finally being brought to light across not only North America but the entire world.

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