The 21st century was imagined by many as a time of peace and prosperity. The horrors of the 20th century, including the scourge of world war and economic hardship, were not to be a part of this bright new century. Communism had fallen and the “End of History” was announced, representing the triumph of the “Washington Consensus” of globalized free market democracy, presided over by transnational corporations and enforced by an ever-present, all-powerful but benevolent U.S. military. Yes, liberal democracy had “won” and the future was one of capitalism, free markets, privatization, globalization and peaceful relations across an ever “flatter world.”
But that is not where we find ourselves. As we approach the end of the first decade of the millennium, humanity is experiencing an unfolding crisis in which our Mother Earth and its inhabitants simultaneously face the prospect of economic insecurity, violent conflict, environmental degradation, competition for ever scarcer resources and markets, societal and political upheaval, and an increase in poverty and hopelessness.
Without question, these are times of historic import, times that call for a constructive, inclusive solution. In response we present The Fourth Way, a spiritually grounded vision and strategy for change that envisions a new era of cooperation, sustainable peace, security and human wellbeing. The Fourth Way is based on ancient prophesies found throughout the Western Hemisphere stating that after a long winter of death, deprivation, violence and despair, the Indigenous peoples of the Americas would awaken to a new springtime of hope, cooperation and prosperity. Rooted in ancient principles embedded in Indigenous culture and expressed anew in its foundational Sixteen Principles, The Fourth Way is the path to these prophecies' fulfillment.
The winter for the Indigenous peoples of the Americas has been long and bitter, lasting over 500 years. It was introduced by a “great die-off” of 90-95% of all Indigenous people in the Americas, most as the result of European diseases, which killed them before they ever saw a European. Charles Mann, in his book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus, quotes scholars who believe that 80-100 million Natives perished from disease by the mid- 1600’s, a catastrophe on an even greater scale than the “black deaths” in Europe. Many more died afterwards as the direct result of hostile colonial policies. Consequently, Indigenous peoples have been deprived of their identity and culture and suffered profound poverty and abuse, resulting in intergenerational trauma.
Over the centuries, Indigenous peoples have responded to this cruel set of conditions in a variety of ways ranging from assimilation and passive resignation to resistance. At the same time, there has always been a powerful core of Indigenous elders and spiritual leaders who advocated holding on to the ancient spiritual vision of the oneness of the human family and the teaching that the way out of this period of oppression and suffering Indigenous peoples have endured is not through violence, but rather through healing the trusts that were broken, and through building constructive partnerships with all nations and peoples. These elders and spiritual leaders have continued to believe in the ancient prophecies, including the Reunion of the Condor and the Eagle, the Time of the Eighth Council Fire, the Return of the White Buffalo, the Emergence of the Fourth World and the fulfillment of Black Elk’s Daybreak Star Prophesy which presents the entire human family as the children of one mother nourished and shaded by the tree of life and favored with the promise of renewal and rebirth. In the past, their wise voices and vision were overcome by those who advocated resistance and violence, but we believe that the time has now come to witness the fulfillment of their vision. Indigenous people are ready to reclaim their cultures, values and traditions and to take advantage of collective material resources to play a key role in humanity’s advancement, all steps toward the fulfillment of their highest potential.
The Fourth Way acknowledges that the human family is at a crossroad facing diverging paths: on one side lies the path of conflict, militarism, economic insecurity and war; on the other, a sacred path leading to mutual understanding, cooperation and sustainable, harmonious prosperity. We offer The Fourth Way based on the conviction that Indigenous people have the vision, the guiding principles, the values, the growing capacity and the collective resources to co-create a peaceful and harmonious future for our children and grandchildren. We submit that Indigenous people hold an important key to peace, security and sustainable well-being for all members of the human family.
The implementation of the Fourth Way requires each individual to look at the world in a new way. We are accustomed to seeing the world through a prism uniquely anchored in our own background, experience, and to the narrative or founding “myth” of our native land or group. We are especially bound by religious belief and tradition. We must learn to respect both religious belief and religious differences. The Fourth Way respects all forms of religious belief, but also respects freedom of conscience. We must learn to widen our prism to see and understand more than we did before, to see ourselves as others see us and to see the issues we face from differing points of view. In the end we must come to understand the true meaning of Black Elk’s vision, that despite our differences, we are in fact all related.
BLACK ELK’S VISION
"Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there, I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shape of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy."
The Fourth Way is addressed to the Indigenous peoples of the world with particular emphasis on those of the Western Hemisphere. It also invites the participation of all members of the human family who are devoted to fostering economic prosperity, reducing conflict and violence, promoting increased understanding, social justice, diplomacy, partnership building, and the creation of participatory government institutions. With the Sixteen Principles as its strategic and spiritual foundation, the Fourth Way invites everyone to join together to achieve Black Elk's vision of peace through the unity of the human spirit. All those who join in the pursuit of these goals are part of The Fourth Way.
In this document we discuss the origins and evolution of The Sixteen Principles and The Fourth Way and historical and current issues, and then outline a strategy for the constructive engagement of all concerned. Our collective future is at stake.