Photo ID: The top of a teepee with a picture of Dr. Sidney Stone Brown and text overlay

What Maslow Missed in his Hierarchy of Needs – The Native Self Actualization Model: An Interview with Dr. Sidney Stone Brown

Curt and Katie interview Dr. Sidney Stone Brown on the Native Self-Actualization Model. We look at Abraham Maslow’s work, which was created after spending time with the Blackfoot people as well as how his Hierarchy of Needs supports greed and capitalism. We also talk through indigenous wisdom and how Dr. Brown incorporated their lifestyle and teachings into her work on the Native Self-Actualization Model. She emphasizes the power of altruism, reciprocity, and working together collaboratively.


Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.

An Interview with Dr. Sidney Stone Brown, LPC

Photo ID: Headshot of Dr. Sidney Stone BrownSidney Stone Brown was born in Kalispell Montana, and is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Indian Nation of Browning Montana. She was raised on / near her reservation until 1955, living in her great grandmother’s log house with her parents, great uncle, brother and older sisters. They had no running water or indoor toilets; the house was heated with oil and light by kerosene lanterns until 1950.  Dr. Brown’s family relocated to Coos Bay Oregon when their reservation faced termination in 1955.  Thereafter Dr. Brown attended west coast schools.  She attended 30 different schools between first grade and graduation at Oregon State University in 1974.

Dr. Brown worked her way through college and was employed by her tribe as an employment counselor, where she met a resident psychologist working at the tribal Hospital and became interested in Psychology. Near completion of her master’s program she contracted with  1) the  University of Minnesota developing  community action teams for the Red Cliff Reservation, 2) a Lakota CAP agency in Rapid City South Dakota acting alcohol program director and 3) the University of Utah (Montana Wyoming) Alcohol Counselor Trainer and 4)  became permanent employment as director of NARA 1974.  The program was originally funded at $81,000 and in ten years was 1.2 million.  NARA (1981) won a national recognition award for program excellence and it was noted at the presentation in New Orleans that the model (Native Self Actualization) she developed was the most innovative cross-cultural model ever submitted to the National Council on Alcoholism since the awards began in 1946.

She has served on many other non-profit boards, appointed a member of the (ADAMHA) Alcohol and Drug Abuse Mental Health Administration Minority Advisory Committee (1974-1976).  She lobbied for Indian and minority services at the Oregon State Legislature subcommittees, and before the US Senate.  she helped form the board and helped develop the certification criteria for NW Indian Alcohol Drug Counselor Certification Board.

In 1989 she shifted her career emphasis from administration to clinical services receiving 3 years of clinical supervision at a community mental health center and a residential treatment center to obtain licensure (LPC and NCC-MAC).  Later she was mentored to be a CQI coordinator when employed at a JCAHO certified facility in Newberg Oregon. The program won re-accreditation with accommodation the second year of my employment.  She was admitted to the spiritual/psychology integration program at George Fox University George Fox for fall 2001.

Her clinical work with Native people convinced her she had to understand the impact of religion abuse and abuse by clergy.  She is committed and determined to fulfill her goals to mentor the next generation of minority students and contribute to the literature and research that supports good practices for Native Americans.

In this podcast episode, we talk about The Native Self-Actualization Model

Most of us learn Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but did not hear the story about his time with the Blackfoot Tribe. There is more and more evidence that he took Native teachings and transformed it to match our individualistic, capitalistic society. We reached out to Dr. Brown to help us gather some of the history and the true wisdom about what actualization actually looks like.

How has native teaching impacted psychology?

  • Erickson and Jung studied with different tribes
  • Maslow studied with the Blackfoot people before creating his Hierarchy of Needs
  • Maslow did not publish or acknowledge the work of the Blackfoot tribe
  • Maslow’s work was for corporations

What did Maslow find when studying Native people?

  • Most people were secure (versus the high percentage of folks in poverty on the East Coast)
  • He moved from behaviorist to humanist
  • Learned the way of life with the Blackfoot Tribe

What is the Native Self-Actualization Model?

“Our world is suffering, people are suffering, because as we grow, and as we live in this world, we see the disparities. And it was never meant that just a few could have extreme wealth, at the expense of everyone else. Every person has a place and a purpose. And security is inherent in indigenous communities.” – Dr. Sidney Stone Brown

  • Inverted Lodge or Teepee (turning Maslow’s hierarchy of needs upside down)
  • The inherent purpose or promise babies come into the world with
  • The philosophy of Indigenous People
  • The importance of culture and altruism

“When I learned what the Blackfoot people were teaching [Abraham Maslow], I felt the world needed to know that we can look at this differently. Because right now that hierarchy of needs is causing harm. Just a few people being able to be actualized. And I would like to believe that everyone can be actualized.” – Dr. Sidney Stone Brown

What has impacted Native mental health?

  • Clement Bear Chief’s concept of the holes torn through Native communities
  • The sexualization and objectification of Native women
  • The need for protection people, earth, animals
  • The story of the Blackfoot relationship with the buffalo
  • The commonality of the indigenous experience
  • Everything that was taken from Native people creating holes
  • How to incorporate indigenous practices and teachings to support mental health treatment

Important Takeaways

“I also want to remind people that I’m doing this because Maslow didn’t. I’m doing this because it’s possible now. I don’t think they would have listened to Maslow if he tried to explain what he learned from the Blackfoot people, so it’s time and we need to help each other and teach each other.” – Dr. Sidney Stone Brown

  • The importance of intergenerational knowledge
  • It is essential that indigenous wisdom and way of life survive
  • The power of altruism and reciprocity
  • We all are human beings and need to take care of each other

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Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!
Facebook Page: Transformation Beyond Greed (website is down indefinitely)

Interview of Dr. Brown: Native Wellness Institute

To get the book now, contact Dr. Sidney Stone Brown:

New Publisher for the Book Coming Soon!

Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

Therapy as a Political Act: An interview with Dr. Travis Heath

The Person of the Therapist: An Interview with Dr. Harry Aponte

Bridging Cultural and Communication Differences in a Bilingual Psychotherapy Practice: An Interview with Dr. Carmen Roman

Who we are:

Picture of Curt Widhalm, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast; a nice young man with a glorious beard.Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Picture of Katie Vernoy, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcastKatie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

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Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):

Curt Widhalm 0:00
This episode of The ModernTherapist’s Survival Guide is brought to you by Thrizer.

Katie Vernoy 0:03
Thrizer is a modern billing platform for private pay therapists. Their platform automatically gets clients reimbursed by their insurance after every session. Just by billing your clients through Thrizer you can potentially save them hundreds every month with no extra work on your end. The best part is you don’t have to give up your rates they charge a standard 3% processing fee.

Curt Widhalm 0:24
Listen at the end of the episode for more information on a special offer from Thrizer.

Announcer 0:29
You’re listening to The Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide where therapists live, breathe and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm, and Katie Vernoy.

Curt Widhalm 0:44
Welcome back modern therapists, this is The Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm, with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast for therapists where we talk about a lot of the things that affect our practices, the clients that we see. And as we move closer and closer to having now 300 episodes, we are still finding areas of our podcast that we have not covered at all or very much in depth. And we’re very excited for the first time to be exploring some of the new cultures that we haven’t covered here. And this is looking at Native Americans, First Nations indigenous, and especially the way that it impacts some of maybe people who get better credit for doing things then they didn’t really cite where their sources came from or where their influences came from. So we are joined today by Dr. Sidney Stone Brown, a member of the Blackfeet tribe, and partially where I grew up in northern Montana, very near the Blackfeet reservation. And we are very thankful to have you talking to us today about the influences that have permeated the rest of the field and really where we should be giving credit. So thank you for joining us.

Sidney Stone Brown 2:12
Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to reach out to more people and to also help them understand that we need to give recognition to indigenous elders, teachers who have passed on knowledge to the area of behavioral and mental health services. One for example is Erickson who received a lot of information from the Lakota people and Yurok in California that actually became his model for child development. Jung studied with the Hopi people and was trained by Hopi elders. So I had heard over the years that Maslow had had contact with our tribe, but that was all I knew. And when I went up to do a training on the Sissoko reserve, the Blackfoot reserve, just south of Calgary, Alberta. I was presenting what I had learned and how I wanted to talk about Native self actualization. And I remember one of the elders standing up in the in the group and saying to me, where did you get that? And I said, I drempt it. And she said, Oh, we’ve been looking for you. And then afterwards, they sat down and talked to me, and basically asked me to write a book to showcase the real presentation of actualization, which isn’t their word, but it’s a word that we know in Psychology and Social Work, human services, but they wanted people to know that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, was formulated after he had contact with the Blackfoot elders, and the Blackfoot elders had told him about our way of life. And what he discovered in his contact in 1938, and he wrote unpublished papers that I found in the archives in 1940. And he never did publish or acknowledge what he learned from the Blackfoot elders. And so they were basically asking me to set the record straight, to be able to view it from an indigenous perspective rather than from a doctrine of discovery, and a hierarchical system. So it changed my life as I learned more from them, because I understood that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs came out of his work primarily with corporations. He was an IO guy.

Katie Vernoy 4:58
Oh wow.

Sidney Stone Brown 4:59
He actually did a lot of work and training with corporations. And they wanted him to share what he was sharing in a pyramid. Now, here we’ve got capitalism. And we have a pyramid. And he’s sharing his perspective of what he learned from the Blackfoot people and what he how he formulated. And it’s unique to him. It was his, but how he formulated it. And when they elder saw that years later, they’re saying, that isn’t what we taught him. That isn’t how we shared this. It’s different. So for me to be able to say that the Blackfoot people are saying set the record straight by saying there is no hierarchy in our worldview. And Maslow was very stunned when he was with an archaeological group, who was studying the Blackfoot people at the expense of the Canadian government. They wanted to know more about our people and Maslow came in because he was from the East Coast, he had never had contact with Native people before. And he basically was kind of blown away.

Katie Vernoy 6:11

Sidney Stone Brown 6:11
He discovered that these folks really know what they’re talking about, because he said he had been studying and using an instrument of measure of security. And when he looked at those questions and applied them to the Blackfoot people, on the Sissoko reserve, they didn’t fit because he said that on the East Coast, maybe 5% of the people are secure. And what he found amongst the Blackfoot people was and his estimate was toned down by other people who read his paper. But his estimate was 90-95% of our people were secure. And that blew him away. He went up there a monkey man. He went up there ready to study with Harlow and, and do all of that, and he ended up leaving the Blackfoot nation and going back to his work and he became the humanist that we know he became. So I think the Blackfoot people transformed him by their encounter with him and the teachings that they passed on. So when you look at the hierarchy of need, you know, that’s a European model. We don’t have pyramids, by the way. But we do have teepees.

Katie Vernoy 6:51

Sidney Stone Brown 6:52
And a lot of our stories and teachings are done with the lodge to help people understand human development and passages through phases of development. What I did is I took his pyramid basically, and turned it upside down. So if you if you do that, just take his Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and turn it upside down and see what you see. Because that’s closer to what the Blackfoot people, the elders wanted me to convey. So I did write a book it is called Transformation Beyond Greed: Native Self-Actualization. I self published because if you publish through a big publishing company, they take all the rights, they have the copyright, and they tell you what to put in the book. And it’s been out there in the world in Indian country for quite some time now. And I need to get it internationally because I have done training in Australia. And the indigenous people over there very much related to the model and said that they wanted to use it. So right now the book has been used as a textbook by the University of North Dakota doctorial program in clinical psychology. It’s being used in the Blackfeet Community College Nursing Program is using it as one of their sources for their coursework.

Katie Vernoy 9:07

Sidney Stone Brown 9:08
People I’m finding in indigenous populations is that their begining to understand the implications of what the Blackfoot teachings are really about, and how they can affect the world. And I hope that what we do by the time, my great granddaughter grandson are out there the world functioning as Blackfoot people and teachers that everyone will look at Maslow’s hierarchy as something that supported capitalist thinking and belief system, allowing only 5% of the population to be actualized when in reality for native populations, indigenous worlds, everyone has a purpose. Everyone is brought here for reason. We’re all to make a contribution, and based on altruistic values, give back to the world. And, and when you flip that paradigm of the teepee, replacing the pyramid, and its inverted, you begin to see the world very differently. And I hope that we can change how damaged our world, and this Earth Mother of ours has been. Because it’s based on greed, it’s based on power, it’s based on control it, it makes all brown and black people and people of color as subhuman and that we are not equivalent to or able to function in that worldview. And no wonder we don’t want to assimilate.

Katie Vernoy 10:56
Of course.

Sidney Stone Brown 10:56
No wonder we don’t want further colonization. And so it really is saying, we have to step back and look at this differently. And I know I’m speaking to many non native people, and I understand that, but I want you to step back and think about it in this way. We all came from villages, for all indigenous people. How far removed you are from that attachment and that relationship really determines the assimilation, and the in-culturation, into this capitalistic world. And what I’m suggesting our task is, is to in-culturate people to return them to the basis of a relationship with the world where we know everything is alive, we have responsibility and duties, and that we work in a reciprocal way. Now, that’s a very easy way to tell you what altruism is.

Katie Vernoy 12:02

Sidney Stone Brown 12:03
It’s giving back. It’s not just taking, but it’s always reciprocal.

Katie Vernoy 12:09
Thank you so much. We typically start our our episodes, asking our guests to say who they are and what they’re putting out in the world, I think you took care of the What are you putting out into the world, and I want to dig into that very deeply. But before we started recording, you also shared a little bit more about who you are and how you are situated within the world. And I’d love to share that with our audience.

Sidney Stone Brown 12:33
I’m 75 years old. I have worked in the field of substance disorder for over 50 years. I celebrated my 50th year of recovery, May 10th. But I was working with addiction, and alcoholism long before I got my own recovery. I just didn’t see myself as one of them. I was someone different, I drank differently. So we all come to a point of realization that we are impaired, and that we are diminished by the use of mood altering substances. And for me, it it happened from 19 to 24 years of age, and I decided I wanted something different in my life. And that began my journey. So I continue to work in the field of substance disorder and co-occurring treatment. And I will till the end of of my life, I believe. So we’re here and thinking beyond those limitations of age, but rather thinking about what do our elders bring to us? And how do we convey that knowledge to the world. So it it isn’t lost. Because with every death of one of our elders, we just lost a library. We just lost the wisdom and the knowledge, the language. So I work at the Navajo Nation. I am a behavioral health director. We have residential and outpatient services. And I am looking for for people who want to work in this field. Here’s my recruitment, yeah, if you have licensed as a substance disorder counselor, if you are Navajo come home, we need you. But really what I want to say is that I chose to work here for the last 10 and a half years, almost 11, because I am surrounded by people who live their culture and who are fluent in their language and who are reaching out to help the next generation so that we don’t have to replicate the trauma and harm that we’ve experienced and that we can have a good life and instead of teaching us how to be resilient in a traumatic world, it’s about time that we teach people how to be resilient, and thrive, and do the best that they can, and be the best that they can and get better as they learn more. So it’s, it’s an important journey, and it’s called life.

Katie Vernoy 15:18
I love that.

Curt Widhalm 15:19
A lot of your work is based on this Native self actualization model. And I’m hoping that you can give us what this looks like and what you’re hoping that our audience can walk away from, in how your process came to, to make this.

Sidney Stone Brown 15:38
To speak to that question, and thank you for asking it, we have to go back and look at the hierarchy of Maslow’s model. And if you know his model, and almost everybody who works in the helping services knows it, there, the pyramid at the bottom is physiological needs, and then safety needs, then social needs, then esteem, and then self actualization. And, actually, I’ve had people contact me to tell me that the first use of the term self actualization was in 1700s. So it’s not something he created, but something that he used to convey information. So if you if you think about the poverty level of most Americans, and I’m going to say that, truthfully, I mean, people live paycheck to paycheck. For those of us that have gone on to school, we have student loans, I still owe $121,000. And I’ve been working at this for since 2000 let’s say 12, I think is when I started my payments, after deferment. I owed $146,000, when I graduated.

Katie Vernoy 17:09

Sidney Stone Brown 17:11
No forgiveness on misinformation. All of these things create financial disparities for individuals who choose to go on with their life but can’t afford. So well. Yes, I’m a first generation in my family of getting a college degree. I got a little carried away, because now I have two masters and a doctorate. I gotta learn more, I gotta figure this out. It doesn’t make any sense to me. But let’s talk about that inverted Lodge. And I want you to think of it differently, that when people come into the world, they come in with already a spiritual promise. They already have a purpose for arriving. We call them and they come, and they choose us and choose to be a part of our life. And in that process, what we have is an opportunity to welcome them. So when that little life enters this physical world, what we’re really doing is welcoming a spirit from the spirit world. And I remember telling my elder teacher who I talk about in the book, DeVere Eastman, the Great Buffalo said, I said, I’m going to have a baby, and he goes, You’re going to have a teacher.

Katie Vernoy 18:48
There you go.

Sidney Stone Brown 18:49
He said they got it all wrong and that other world he said, we’re, we’re taught by them if we listen. And that’s true. That’s absolutely true. I have three adult daughters and nine grandchildren, and they’re all teachers to me. So yes, we come into this world with a promise. And then think of the lodge if you’ve ever been in a teepee, they have what’s called the teepee lining. And it goes up partially in the in the wall. When that teepee lining is put up it is a place to put the insulation to keep the lodge cool or warm. And so family represent that teepee lining, that that it’s there to protect that little spiritual being that just arrived. And so the nurturing of a child, if we didn’t have large families, like the European families, we had smaller families and they got very close attention. And, and mothers typically had only two children. And out of those two children, they would spend their life protecting and caring for that child. So when I hear all of these things about abortion, and I remember asking an elder, did we have anything like that? And he said, No, we welcomed every child. But they also knew how to do a protection so that you didn’t have more children. And I asked him, What about contraceptives? And they said, well, you’d have to talk to the women about that, tell you about that. So some of our modern stressors that we face, were actually things that indigenous populations had to face too, they had to answer these questions. You don’t bring more people into the world than you can support, than you can raise, than you can nurture and love. And so this idea that you have any number of children makes no sense at all, when there’s going to be starvation and death, and unwanted children. So I think that when you look at the philosophy of indigenous populations, they knew it was important to protect kin. It was important to raise children and to nurture and love them and every child knowing that they were wanted and valued. And that’s what the teepee line represents. The next place in the teachings of the elders, is that we all have a place to fit into the community. So indigenous populations, including the Blackfoot people, had clans, we had societies, and we had roles and responsibilities. So that when you were born into a particular family, when you were raised in that family, you were also raised in that culture of the society, and a clan, and the relationship to the community. And when you know that you have a place that you fit and belong, that’s really what we’re talking about in terms of security. I’m protected I wanted and I’m also have a place and, and rather than raising children to tell them what you want them to be, you raise your children, to allow them to find that spiritual promise that they bring into the world and that they share with the world. And you stay out of the way, but you support and help them to realize that. So in that process of raising children, they find where they fit and belong, to carry out that spiritual promise. And then the next level of, of giving and being is to be able to practice altruism. That you’re taught by your life experiences that you help. And it is reciprocated. And that that relationship of, of being there for each other and taking care of each other and helping each other and sharing is so contrary to the concept of greed. So I really think the book named itself. I didn’t name it. But to really help people understand, our world is suffering, people are suffering, because as we grow, and as we live in this world, we see the disparities. And it was never meant that just a few could have extreme wealth at the expense of everyone else. And the last place and Maslow called it self actualization. So when in order to get people to understand, sometimes you have to speak and their frame of reference and their worldview, I did call it native self actualization. But I want you to remove the word self, and native actualization and what is native it means close to nature. That means I understand that I breathe oxygen because the tree produces that and I have a living responsibility to take care of the trees. So that spiritual relationship is also part of that actualization of realization that I’m here to give and to leave the world a better place and that we’re here to cooperate and collaborate with one another. So, if you look at the inverted Lodge, the first placement would be welcoming that child, the second placement would be protecting that child. The third place would be helping them understand their roles and responsibilities in the society and the ceremonies and the relationship to, to the language, to the land, to the teachings, and then practicing altruism. It’s not what you say, but what you do. And that’s how the children learn. And by young adults, they’re taking care of each other. And they’re preparing to have their own families, and then that we have a spiritual purpose for being here. So when someone comes along and says that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the only way to explain human development and, and human journey, the elder said, No, help the world understand that we had these teachings and we live this way. Anthropologists tell us now it’s 10,000 years that they can prove that we’ve been there on that same area of land across both of the parks Glacier Park. There’s a Waterton Park up in I think it’s called that in Canada, and the Yellowstone Park, that’s all Blackfoot territory, and take it all the way over almost into the Dakotas, and straight north into Saskatchewan and way up to Edmonton. And that was our territory. So what the elders are saying, we lived this for 1000s of years, we’ve learned and we know how to do this. And they want to pass that knowledge on to the world. So Maslow got it. It’s just how I think the corporation’s pressure to him to present it. And in the book, I talk about a relative of His coming up to me when I was doing a training in Anchorage, and the relative said, Maslow is gone. And I said, I knew that. And he said He would have liked your model. Because when I talk about the eight domains of an assessment instrument I worked on and is ready to be used electronically. The eight domains measure what I call native actualization. So the first domain is how do you believe in a power greater than yourself? The second domain is how do you spend your free time? The third domain is who do you want to learn from? And the fourth domain is how do you describe family? And then when I started my dissertation, I added for more time, because indigenous world is circular time. In the moment, everything in the past and everything in the future is held in that moment. It’s all interrelated, interconnected. And the language, the fluency of the language, if we don’t protect and continue speaking our language, we will lose all of that indigenous knowledge. The next one, I said, is cultural connectedness. Because yes, I’ve been an expert witness for court cases. To have that connectedness, and what a harm of adoption, and foster care and boarding schools and orphanages did to our people is horrendous. And now we have another version of it, it’s missing the murdered children, missing the murdered women. It’s almost like they do not want us to survive. And yet, despite all the harm, we have survived. And the last domain I added was food, our relationship to our traditional our bodies for 1000s of years, have lived a certain way and prepared to eat and, and digest food in a certain way. And then we have all these modern foods that are causing so much harm to the organs, harm in terms of blood sugar levels, diabetes, heart disease, all of these things can be changed if we eat differently. So those are the eight domains that are in my assessment, and people are either placed in a modern worldview with intent to become enculturated or a traditional worldview and wanting to learn how they can live in a modern world. And so we really need both worldviews, and you take the best from both, and live according to your personal spiritual purpose for being here. So, that’s my idea of native self actualization. And I, if you look at it, it’s two octagons, actually. And there’s the eight that build on each other and inter relate to each other. So when I chose two octagons, to the Blackfoot elders, when I was presenting up there, they said, Where did you get that? I said, I dreamed it. And they said, Oh, we’ve been looking for you. So they knew I knew, not because I had learned it in a book or because I was in it, or thought it up on my own, but rather that I had that intergenerational ancestral tie to the knowledge of the Blackfoot people. And I, I really liked Maslow, I want people to understand that and I always felt drawn to him my first psychology class, I go hmm, this makes sense to me. But I, when I learned what the Blackfoot people were teaching him, I felt the world needed to know that we can look at this differently, because right now that hierarchy of needs is causing harm. Just a few people being able to be actualized. And I would like to believe that everyone can be actualized.

Katie Vernoy 31:37
It’s interesting, because in the book you talk about, once you once someone who is self actualized, quote, unquote, self actualized, then their their task is to serve, that that is a higher purpose. And I think that’s, that is very much anti-capitalist, I think there’s, there’s so much that goes into, I mean, you succinctly put it as greed, but I think there’s that element of of seeking out my own best benefit as the highest highest calling, so to speak, versus recognizing how we fit into society and how we fit into the collective, really the group of folks that are all here together. And I really liked this different idea and reading the work that you that you put into this, I just, I felt very, very moved by it. And I also recognize that there are many powers and forces that don’t want this native actualization, they like the 5%, the 2%, or whatever the point, oh, 1% having all of this power and, and I guess, for me, there’s, there’s, there’s two lines of inquiry that we could go to, I think there’s this, this element of being able to support natives in their own work and reconnecting because there’s the concept of that comment Bear Chief said about having holes and I want to talk about that. And then there’s also kind of transforming the world and bringing this outside of the native people so maybe, you know, we’re, I think we’re gonna have a long episode, Curt. Maybe we can talk about, you know, in truth, kind of native mental health and the work that you’re doing, as well as this idea of filling holes, that you talked about in the book, and then maybe we can kind of move back out into needing to, to kind of decolonize and become more anti-capitalist to save the planet and and all the people in it.

Sidney Stone Brown 33:36
Yeah, that’s a hard one to describe with words, because when Clement Bear Chief was teaching me about these things, I cried a lot. And he later told me that I had allergies. And I said, No, I’m, I’m in my adult life. And I’m learning things that I had a right to know as a child, as a young person to guide me and to assist me in understanding the world. And, and he, he told me, some of the stories I knew, and I told him some of the stories I knew and and he corrected me that nothing in our stories was sexualized, nothing was hurtful, and that Europeans came and those stories got twisted and turned and made into sexualized stories. And I think that’s part of the grooming of non natives influencing us and harming our children and harming our women. So I, when I see a movie like, gosh, what was a call when the guy gets attacked by a bear, and he’s all alone and travels, and it shows a woman, a native woman, in a log house being abused and being used sexually, I can’t stand watching those kinds of things. Because what it tells me is, how many of our families were destroyed by the greed and, and the misuse of human beings, for somebody’s personal gratification or sense of power. But when I think about those things, I want us to stop and, and protect the children, protect the women, protect the men, and give them dignity, and a sense of self, because we’re all warriors. And we all have responsibility to take care of each other in that way. So for me, it’s understanding that we are in a process of transforming a very damaged world that is upside down, that needs to be turned in a direction of protecting the earth, protecting the atmosphere, protecting the animals. So Clement was telling me about our relationship with the buffalo and, and every tribe has their own relationship. My husband, who passed a year ago, he’s Paiute, from Northern California, small reserve reservation there, Fort Bidwell, and I kind of told him the story of buffalo and he said, we just had gophers, deer and other things. But anyway, he liked the story of the buffalo. But the Creator, in in putting us here, helped us and gave us teachers and our teachers are our environment. It’s the world around us, it’s animals, it’s plants. It’s the relationship to the land. And Clement was saying how Creator started calling all the little creatures to say, we need to clothe these guys, they, they don’t have any fur? We need to feed them, they gonna be hungry, you know. So long story short, is he called and in here come the mice will help will help will help. No, no, I don’t think that’ll quite make what I have in mind. And the gophers came and, and the badgers and even the deer and the elk and the moose. And then they heard the thunder. And it was powerful. And it was all the buffalo coming forward. And they stopped in front of Creator. And they said we will care for these people. We will provide for them, we will help them. That’s our relationship to the buffalo. So when they couldn’t kill us, when they couldn’t beat us in war, they killed off the buffalo, millions so that the people would starve. So they could have the land. They didn’t want us. Clement said the buffalo sacrificed themselves so we could survive. And I’m one of those survivors. I’m one of those people that shouldn’t have any attachment, or any relationship or even care. So when we think about how things change, we have to set back to the beginning. That’s why I asked non native people find your village. Find where your people are from. If you find that village, you’re going to find the dialect. And you’re going to find the relationship of that village to that land and your indigenous ties. So when it’s them and us, it’s not true. We’re all human beings. And we need to help each other and care about each other and stop the harmful ways that this world has become. So I see this teaching by the Blackfoot people replicated in other tribes. They have their own way of describing it. I work with the Navajo, the Diné people. They have their own way of explaining things, but we have many things in common. And in that commonality, we find consensus, we find a way to get things done, we find a way to relate to one another. So when I first got my doctorate and I was working in an eco program in Denver, Colorado, the kids would be sent to see Dr. Brown. Now I want to see Dr. Brown, they think I’m going to give them a shot. I said, tell him, I’m a rent-a-grandma. I became rent-a-grandma in Denver there for a while. Because we have to level this hierarchy. And we have to level so that we can have relationship with one another. And so when, when Clement was talking to me, and the only way I can show you is, most people know how to make a church, right? You gotta have learned that somewhere along the line, okay? And there’s the steeple, alright, so just close it down like this, and have all those fingers fitting together. And see that’s how we used to live. That was our relationship to the world. And then colonization came and started taking things away. They removed our children, and put them in boarding schools. They told us we couldn’t speak our language. They told us we couldn’t have our ceremonies. They told us we couldn’t be on the land we were on. They pushed and shoved us around. And they took away our food source, and our source for clothing. Everything that we lived was changed. So I want you to just imagine for a minute what it feels like for these aliens to come. And say there’s nothing right about you. The way you walk, the way you talk, the way you live, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the way you smell. All of those things are wrong. And they have to be changed. That, to me, is what Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs looks like: is that push for change, rather than accepting people, as indigenous people. And so basically, when Clement was saying fill the holes, he’s saying pull us all back together again, put us together in a way that we can be united and connected and help and care about each other.

Curt Widhalm 42:41
How does that look in the work that we can do with our clients? And in other words, taking these very important cultural lessons in 21st century therapy. Can How does that look? What does that look like?

Sidney Stone Brown 42:58
I am in a federally funded program, third party revenue, Medicaid reimbursement by insurance companies all those things are a part of our reality here. We fight for the right, we haven’t got it yet. But we why we fight for the right for our traditional practitioners, the Diné medicine people that we have on staff who hold ceremonies, and conduct groups and pass on teachings. We want them to be paid as though they were doctorates. Because they are. My Indian name was given to me by Peter Weasel Moccasin. And Peter is one of the Blackfoot elders and teachers from the Kainah the blood reserve in Canada and Alberta. And he passed his name on to me, which means protector of the circle. He said, Because that’s what you’ve been doing with your life. That’s how you’ve lived your life. And he gave me his name. That’s a great honor to have that name. But it’s a lot to live up to as well. It goes, the responsibility is there with that name, and honoring. And I just heard that Peter was given an honorary doctorate from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, acknowledging his wisdom and knowledge. And I want to say that that’s an example of what couldn’t have happened in Maslow’s era. They wouldn’t have allowed that to happen to honor those elders that taught him because we were seen as stupid. We were seen as subhuman and that we had no rights. I remember sitting in my master’s program in 1972 being told by a statistics professor, that the only reason that I could be in that class and study statistics was because I was part white, because Indians couldn’t do that. So I said, then you don’t know my relatives, you don’t know the leaders that I have in my family. And it you know, they’re really well known chiefs down here in the States. And I think of, of the chiefs in my family, Mountain Chief, Fools Crow. Those people, the Lakota teachers, those are the people that frame our life and teach us how to live in a good way. Know, I really want people to understand we were not ignorant. We were far more advanced. And now society, this is what our elders are saying. Maybe this society is ready to listen to us, to hear our indigenous knowledge. Yeah, I hope so.

Katie Vernoy 46:11
I hope so too. So I want to make sure that we’re because we are definitely longer than normal episodes, Sydney. So I want to make sure that we are sharing what you want us to have shared. I feel like we were going to need to revisit at some point. So we obviously can’t talk about every single thing. But what would be one or two more questions that you might want to make sure that we ask that we can kind of include in the episode.

Sidney Stone Brown 46:37
I think understanding the relationship of intergenerational knowledge. My first teachers, because I was in an urban setting where Lakota, so my teacher, teacher was Fools Crow. If you look him up, you’ll find his writings and things that were published about his wisdom and knowledge. Crowfoot is my great grandmother’s uncle. She called him grandpa because her grandpa was gone. And so I always knew that he was one of our, our elders and our teachers, he’s our grandpa. Being separated by generations doesn’t mean you’re separated from that knowledge. And he was instrumental in treaty seven, being created. And when the the Cree I, that’s the story too, the Cree, wanted him to go and fight with them against the Red Coats. And he said, No, because we need to survive. If we go into that battle, how many of us will survive, and the preservation and the protection and the continuation of our way of life, our language, our culture, is essential. That’s what I got from him as a teacher. So it’s intergenerational knowledge that we’re beginning to honor. And I think that as we share the things that we’ve been taught, we have an opportunity to understand giving back. Crowfoot had had been in a battle, one of his teenage sons was killed, and the Cree, we’re always fighting with us over territory, and we would hold up hold the line, so to speak, and maintain our territory, because that’s survival. And they had a council meeting. And what happened is these, these leaders of the Cree Nation, and the Blackfoot people got together. And in that council Crowfoot looked across the room, and he saw a young man that looked like his son who was killed in the battle. And they’re trying to find a way to resolve the conflict. And what Crowfoot did, is he took that young man as part of the agreement, he would raise this orphan boy that looked like his son that he had just lost, and that he would raise him. Now if you’ve ever heard a Poundmaker, that’s him. Crowfoot raised him. So Poundmaker is coming to to his dad and saying, Come on, Let’s fight these red coats. And dad is saying no, we will survive. And that’s what’s more important than winning that battle. To me, that’s ultimate altruism. How do we take the most hurtful and harmful, and make something better of it. So yes, it’s intergenerational knowledge that we’re retrieving, and acknowledging and honoring indigenous knowledge around the world. So when I presented in Australia to universities over there, they absolutely related to us. I have a little tiny gold kangaroo that was given to me by one of the women where I gave her my book, she said, I’m so glad to have your book but I want you to have this and I brought back a little gold Kangaroo. She said, I’ve worn this for 20 years, but I want you to have it. To me that reciprocal, it’s never $1 for dollar, it’s reciprocal. And when we can learn to do that, when we can learn to give, then we’re helping each other. So when you contacted me, and you said you wanted to do a podcast with me and learn more about my, my work. That’s reciprocal. You, you noticed I didn’t ask you, how much are you going to pay me? Or how much are you going to make off of this? And what’s my share? You know, that’s that hierarchical system. But I know that when we help each other and care about each other, and reach across those boundaries that are artificial, that we’re all human beings. So how do we use this in our clinical work? We use it with SNAP, what’s the strengths, what does needs, what the abilities are, what the preference is? What’s a preference, of worldview? There’s SNAP. We use it in DAP, find a treatment plan, develop the treatment plan and write about the progress in in adapt note. So is it clinically appropriate? Yeah, absolutely. We are CARF accredited. And I can tell you that when they come in and visit us and see our ceremonies and see our hogun and and see our sweat lodge and see masters and doctorate level providers, as well as indigenous providers they go oh my gosh, we don’t know how to behave. They don’t know that they can’t, they don’t know what questions to ask. They don’t understand the relationship with the tribe as a sovereign nation, making the rules and regulations just as another nation would. So we’re a nation within a nation. And I always tease them down here. I say I’m a Blackfoot loner. I’ve been here so long, maybe it’s a short term lease, I’m not sure. You just tried to be good to each other and take care of each other and move the harmful hurtful. And maybe they will change, maybe they won’t but don’t let them hurt anybody anymore. That to me is is what that protection part is about. I hope I’ve answered your questions today.

Katie Vernoy 53:11
Yeah, yes, you have.

Curt Widhalm 53:13
For those in our audience who want to pursue more of your knowledge and find your book, where can we direct them to?

Sidney Stone Brown 53:23
I usually first guide them to the Facebook page for Transformation Beyond Greed. And we are putting up a website, which is They can visit there. Both those sites have interviews that I’ve done over the years that are available. They’re just one is short video of 15 minutes, I think. And the one that’s on the website is an hour long. And that’s just transfer of knowledge. That’s passing on information. And then people contact me for the book. I am moving it to Ingram publisher, it will be available in the near future, hopefully this month. But the one I have now is smaller, and it’s black and white, and the new one, the smaller one is $19.95. And that’s just basically covering costs. And that assists me and in making these kinds of outreach efforts that I’m making today. Also, the new book will be larger, larger print, and it will be in color. So all of the graphics and slides that are in the book will actually be there. The important thing is to communicate. But I also want to remind people that I’m doing this because Maslow didn’t. I’m doing this because it’s possible now. I don’t think they would have listened to Maslow if he tried to explain what he learned from the Blackfoot people. So it’s time and we need to help each other and teach each other.

Curt Widhalm 53:30
And we will happily provide links in our show notes. You can find those over at And please follow us on our social media, and continue the conversation in our Facebook group, the Modern Therapists group. And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm, with Katie Vernoy and Dr. Sidney Brown.

Katie Vernoy 55:29
Thanks again to our sponsor, Thrizer.

Curt Widhalm 55:31
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Katie Vernoy 56:13
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Curt Widhalm 56:47
Once again, sign up at and use the code moderntherapists if you want to test Thrizer completely risk free.

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