The Four Worlds International Institute


Natural Laws for Building Sustainable and Harmonious Prosperity in the Americas and Beyond

These 16 natural laws for building a sustainable and harmonious world community emerged from a 40-year process of reflection, consultation and action within Indigenous communities across the Americas.  They are rooted in the concerns of hundreds of aboriginal elders and leaders and thinkers, as well as in the best thinking of many non-aboriginal scholars, researchers and human and community development practitioners.

These natural laws constitute the foundation for the process of healing and developing ourselves (mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually), our human relationships (personal, social, political, economic, and cultural) and our relationship with Mother Earth.  They describe the way we must work and what we must protect and cherish.

We offer these natural laws as a gift to all who seek to build a sustainable and harmonious world community.




We speak as one, guided by the sacred teachings and spiritual traditions of the four Directions that uplift, guide, protect, warn, inspire and challenge the entire human family to live in ways that sustain and enhance human life and the lives of all who dwell on Mother Earth, and hereby dedicate our lives and energies to healing and developing ourselves, the web of relationships that make our world, and the way we live with Mother Earth.




Starting from within, working in a circle, in a sacred manner,

we heal and develop ourselves, our relationships and our world.




Human Beings Can Transform Their Worlds

The web of our relationships with others and the natural world, which has given rise to the problems we face as a human family, can be changed.


Development Comes From Within

The process of human and community development unfolds from within each person, relationship, family organization, community or nation.


No Vision, No Development

A vision of whom we can become and what a sustainable world would be like, works as a powerful magnet, drawing us to our potential.


Healing Is A Necessary Part Of Development


Healing the past, closing up old wounds and learning healthy habits of thought and action to replace dysfunctional thinking and disruptive patterns of human relations is a necessary part of the process of sustainable development.







Everything is connected to everything else; therefore, any aspect of our healing and development is related to all the others (personal, social, cultural, political, economic, etc.).  When we work on any one part, the whole circle is affected.


No Unity, No Development


Unity means oneness. Without unity, the common oneness that makes (seemingly) separate human beings into ‘community’ is impossible. Disunity is the primary disease of community.


No Participation, No Development


Participation is the active engagement of the minds, hearts and energy of the people in the process of their own healing and development.




Every person (regardless of gender, race, age, culture, religion, sexual orientation) must be accorded equal opportunity to participate in the process of healing and development, and to receive a fair share of the benefits.







Human beings are both material and spiritual in nature. It is therefore inconceivable that human community could become whole and sustainable without bringing our lives into balance with the requirements of our spiritual nature.


Morals and Ethics


Sustainable human and community development requires a moral foundation centered in the wisdom of the heart. With the loss of this foundation, morals and ethical principles decline and development stops.


The Hurt of One Is the Hurt of All: The Honor of One Is the Honor Of All


The basic fact of our oneness as a human family means that development for some at the expense of well being for others is not acceptable or sustainable.


Authentic Development Is Culturally Based


Healing and development must be rooted in the wisdom, knowledge and living processes of the culture of the people.







Human beings are learning beings. We begin learning while we are still in our mother’s wombs, and unless something happens to close off our minds and paralyze our capacities, we keep learning throughout our entire lives. Learning is at the core of healing and development.




To sustain something means to enable it to continue for a long time. Authentic development does not use up or undermine what it needs to keep on going.


Move to the Positive


Solving the critical problems in our lives and communities is best approached by visualizing and moving into the positive alternative that we wish to create, and by building on the strengths we already have, rather than on giving away our energy fighting the negative.


Be the Change You Want To See


The most powerful strategies for change always involve positive role modeling and the creation of living examples of the solutions we are proposing.  By walking the path, we make the path visible.


A Brief History of the Natural Laws


The Sixteen Natural Laws for Building a Harmonious and Sustainable World emerged from an extensive process of consultation with Indigenous spiritual, cultural and community leaders spanning more than two decades.

This consultation process began with an historic gathering that took place during the closing days of December 1982, on the high plains of Southern Alberta.  This gathering of forty traditional elders and community leaders came together to find a solution to the terrible darkness of substance abuse, poverty, suffering and death that seemed to have engulfed nearly every Indigenous community in Canada and the United States, and to share Indigenous visions and prophesies of the future.

Four core natural laws emerged from this traditional council that became the foundation and guiding framework for extensive development, learning and action in hundreds of communities around the world.  These four core natural laws are as follows:

1. Development From Within

Healing and development must come from within the communities of people who desire change, and must largely be directed by those people.

2. No Vision; No Development

If the people have no vision of human possibility other than the one in which they find themselves, they cannot heal themselves, they cannot develop and, ultimately, they cannot survive.  Culture is the mother of vision.  Developing people need to rediscover the life-preserving, life-enhancing values and insights of their own traditional experience.

3. Parallelism: Individual and Community Development are connected.

The development of individuals and the development of their families and communities go hand-in-hand.  Personal and social developments are interdependent. 


            4. A great Learning enterprise is required.

Learning drives the process of development.  People have to learn how to live in the world as individuals, families and communities in new ways that are life-preserving and life-enhancing.  Learning is the fundamental dynamic of human development.


Four years after the initial gathering (in 1987) another elders’ gathering was called to review the work under way, and the original four principles were expanded to seven, adding (at the direction of elders and spiritual leaders attending the second visioning conference) such concepts as “the spiritual and moral dimensions of development are inescapable”; “development must be shaped and guided from within the culture of the people”, and the importance of integrating the “top-down and bottom-up approaches”, because both grassroots participation and strong leadership as well as effective institutions are needed.  In July, 1991, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and Four Worlds International sponsored a gathering of Native American elders in Loveland, Colorado, to further discuss the Natural Laws and Indigenous visions and prophesies of the future.   

Finally, for seven days, in the summers of 1993 and 1994, major conferences were held in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, attended by some five hundred Indigenous peoples each year, for reflection and dialogue on their experiences in healing and developing their communities.  Based on this in-depth reflection and consultation process, Sixteen Natural Laws emerged that included past Natural Laws, but much more clearly reflected what had been learned about what works, and what is needed in the process of community transformation toward sustainable well-being and prosperity. 

It is important to note that these Sixteen Natural Laws have been tested and reviewed by many Indigenous (and other) communities, and have been found to be an effective guide for positive transformational processes.  A Natural Law is not a recipe, however; it is a statement of fundamental truth.  It describes the nature of things as they are, what is basic or essential, what works and what doesn’t, what must be included, and what cannot be left out.  These Sixteen Natural Laws reflect the experiences and distilled wisdom of hundreds of communities and Indigenous nations as they struggle to heal themselves and develop a sustainable and harmonious pattern of life.

Finally, it is important to stress that these Sixteen Natural Laws, as with all life, are in draft.  They are not the last word.  We have certainly not learned all that we have to learn.  New Natural Laws will emerge, and new insights about the meaning of the guiding principles we already know will come to light.  Consider this an invitation to dialogue.   

Guidelines for Talking, Healing, and Sharing Circles 

Talking, sharing and healing circles are useful when the topic under consideration has no right or wrong answer, or when people need to share feelings.  Moral or ethical issues can often be dealt with in this way without offending anyone.  The purpose of talking circles is to create a safe environment for people to share their point of view and experiences with others.  This process helps people gain a sense of trust in each other.  They come to believe that what they say will be listened to and accepted without criticism.  They also gain an appreciation for points of view other than their own.  During the circle time, people are free to respond however they want as long as they follow these guidelines.

  • All comments should be addressed directly to the question or issue, not to comments that another participant has made.  Both negative and positive comments about what anyone else in the circle says should be avoided.  Just say what you want to say in a positive manner.  Speak from the heart.
  • Only one person speaks at a time.  Everyone else should be listening in a non-judgmental way to what the speaker is saying.  Some groups find it useful to signify in some way who has the floor.  Going around the circle systematically is one way to achieve this.  Another is to use some object (such as a stone or stick) which the person who is speaking holds and then passes to the next person who has indicated a desire to speak.
  • Silence is an acceptable response.  No one should be pressured at any time to contribute if they feel reticent to do so.  There must be no negative consequences, however subtle, for saying “I pass.”
  • At the same time, everyone must feel invited to participate.  Some mechanism for ensuring that a few vocal people don’t dominate the discussion should be built in.  For instance, no one speaks twice until everyone in the circle has been given the opportunity to speak once.  An atmosphere of patient and non-judgmental listening usually helps the shy people to speak out and the louder ones to moderate their participation.  Going around the circle in a systematic way, inviting each person to participate simply by mentioning each name in turn can be an effective way to even out participation.
  • It is often better to hold talking circles in groups of five to fifteen rather than with a large group, because in smaller groups everyone has time to say what they need to say without feeling pressured by time.
  • The group leader facilitates the discussion by acknowledging contributions in a non-judgmental way (that is, by avoiding comments such as “good comment” or “great” which can be seen as making comparisons between different contributions), and by clarifying comments when necessary, (e.g. “If I understand what you’re saying, you’re...”).
  • No comments which put down others or ourselves are allowed.  Some agreed-upon way of signaling the speaker when this is occurring should be established.  Self put downs include such comments as, “I don’t think anyone will agree with me, but...” or “I’m not very good at...”
  • Speakers should feel free to express themselves in any way that is comfortable: by sharing a personal story, by using examples or metaphors, by making analytical statements, etc.
  • Some groups have found it useful to encourage participants to focus on consciously sending the speaker loving and compassionate feelings.  In this way listeners are supporting the speaker and not tuning out so they can think about what they will say when it is their turn.(Excerpted from The Sacred Tree Curriculum Guide produced by The Four Worlds International Institute, 1988)These guidelines for Talking, Sharing and Healing Circles were passed down to our Circle in 1975, during the early part of our spiritual journey , by Beloved Elders Abe Burnstick, Dakota and Eddie Bellrose, Cree. Both Abe and Eddie made their journey to the "Other Side Camp"  years ago .  In this digital age, what these Beloved  Elder's shared, also give some good guidance on how to share our perspectives, experiences and feelings with one another on the internet.


Principles of Consultation


• Create community commitment, trust among diverse participants
• Identify opportunities and solve problems
• Determine the best course of action

Ten Principles for Success

(These principles of consultation, steps for taking action and a collaborative governance process are increasingly being utalized by 1000's of Indigenous Communities and other Members of the Human Family around Mother Earth!)


1. Respect each participant and appreciate each other’s diversity. This is the prime requisite for consultation.


2. Value and consider all contributions. Belittle none. Withhold evaluation until sufficient information has been gathered.


3. Contribute and express opinions with complete freedom.


4. Carefully consider the views of others --- if a valid point of view has been offered, accept it as your own.


5. Keep to the mission at hand. Extraneous conversation may be important to team building, but it is not consultation, which is solution driven.


6. Share in the group’s unified purpose --- desire for success of the mission.


7. Expect the truth to emerge from the clash of differing opinions. Optimum solutions emerge from diversity of opinion.


8. Once stated, let go of opinions. Don’t try to ‘‘defend’’ your position, but, rather let it go. Ownership causes disharmony among the team and almost always gets in the way of finding the truth.

9. Contribute to maintaining a friendly atmosphere by speaking with
courtesy, dignity, care, and moderation. This will promote unity and


10. Seek consensus. But if consensus is impossible, let the majority rule. Remember, though, that decisions, once made, become the decision of every participant. After the group has decided, dissenting opinions are destructive to the success of the mission. When decisions are undertaken with total group support, wrong decisions can be more fully observed and corrected.



Taking Action

  1. Define the problem clearly. Make sure everyone has the same understanding of what is being discussed. It may help to write the question or issue down where everyone can see it. 
  2. Identify the human values or spiritual principles which are related to the issue. It can be helpful to think about both the principles and values which should be part of the solution and the values/principles whose violation has helped to cause the problem.
  3. Gather information which might help you make a good decision. This information may be held as common knowledge by the group members and merely needs to be made explicit. Other times research may need to be undertaken by consulting relevant literature or talking to various kinds of people (both “experts” and ``ordinary citizens``). Do not try to make a decision or to evaluate the information while you are
    gathering it.
  4. Make sure everyone in the group understands all the information that has been gathered.
  5. Give everyone the opportunity to express their opinion about what should be done, based on the guiding principles which have been identified. Everyone should have the opportunity to speak once before anyone speaks twice.
  6. Avoid taking offence at the point of view put forward by someone else. It is out of the clash of differing point of view that a creative solution is found. In the same spirit, avoid speaking in ways which will be offensive to others.
  7.  Don’t hold on to your point of view. Once it has been given to the                     circle, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. You don’t have to keep defending it.
  8. After all the participants have contributed their ideas; the facilitator (or any other group member) should try to synthesize what has been said into a course of action which everyone can agree on.
  9. Anyone who feels that an important point has not been taken into consideration in this synthesis should be given the chance to speak again.
  10. Steps 5 to 9 can be repeated several times until a consensus is reached. If, during this process, it becomes evident that a vital piece of information is lacking, be sure to get it before proceeding.
  11. Use a majority vote as a last resort if complete consensus can’t be reached.
  12. Once a decision has been reached, it is important for everyone to support it wholeheartedly, even if you are not in full agreement. Through this type of united action, any flaws in the plan will be revealed and can be remedied without hard feelings or conflict.






Step One – Prayer

Each, in their own way, asks the Creator (or however we designate a higher power or source of inspiration), for guidance and direction so that Her will can guide everyone involved in the election process. Pray enough so everyone at the election meeting is truly connected heart and mind with the Creator.

 Step Two – Consultation

Discuss the qualities of good leaders, and particularly those qualities needed in leadership for this time and situation. Do not discuss individual names – only the qualities a leader should have.

Step Three – Reflection, Prayer and Meditation

Reflect (think deeply) about the qualities needed in those chosen for leaders in the situation. Then think about whom best combines those qualities from among the circle and community; consider everyone. Without the least trace of prejudice and with an open and loving heart, ask the Creator to guide you to make the best choice.

Step Four – Vote

Write down the names of the people for whom you have been guided to vote. Do not discuss your choices with anyone before or after the vote. Your choice is between you and the Creator. The number of names you vote for should equal the number of positions on the council. If your ballot has less or more names it will not be counted.

Step Five – Count the Vote

A special committee of four scrutineers (vote counters) is chosen by those at the election meeting. The scrutineers count the number of votes each person receives. The people with the most votes are chosen. This is called a “plurality vote”.

For example, if the election is to choose seven council members, then the seven people with the highest number of votes are selected. The person with the most votes has the responsibility to call the first meeting of the council. Beyond that, it is not important how many votes each council member received.

If there is a tie in the voting for the last position on the council, then a vote is held to break the tie. The vote is between only the people who tied. For example, if the election is to choose seven council members and there is a tie between the seventh and eighth number of votes, then a vote is held to break the tie. If there is a tie between the second and third, or fourth and fifth number of votes, no vote is necessary since it is clear they have been selected.

Step Six – Acceptance and Support

Everyone in the community must now give their whole-hearted and unreserved support to the chosen. No one should speak secretly against those elected. Rather, everyone should now rally behind the council, pray for them, share their best ideas and insights with them
and cooperate to insure the success of everyone in promoting the healing and development of the people.

 Step Seven – Servant Leadership

The newly chosen council members should show the utmost humility at all times and should approach their work in the attitude of loving service to the community. They should actively solicit (ask for) the views and opinions of community members, and work very hard to insure that the real leaders are the people and the council their servants.

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Comment by Stephen Bamford on January 31, 2013 at 6:29am

As always, Brother Chief Lane, your wisdom shines through.  That all our leaders would adopt this mindset.  Many blessings and thanks for sharing! 

Comment by Glenda Lamb-Wilson on January 29, 2013 at 6:08pm

Like the circle of respect of our ancestors

Comment by jim adams on January 29, 2013 at 10:54am


Comment by Laura Grizzlypaws on January 29, 2013 at 10:15am

Ama t'u7 Yes this is good! Kukwstumckacw I thank you! 

Comment by Rivette Marchand -Hill on January 29, 2013 at 6:13am

I am in!

Comment by Quetzalcoatl- Mexica Vikingr on January 29, 2013 at 5:03am
Comment by White-Bear on January 29, 2013 at 3:34am

Thank you for the rememberance, Brother.

Comment by Mushin Mato Wambli on January 29, 2013 at 3:09am

I am in!

Let us bring forth forth solidarity in a clearing of child centric learning for our mutual liberation by adorning the beauty, wonder and presence of one another in all of our human concerns.

Later Mushin

Comment by Dave Volek on January 29, 2013 at 2:03am

I think it's quite easy for many to accept the above steps as means of attaining community consensus. Most organizations and individuals would believe that they are already in a consultative mindset. But the reality is somewhere else. One important step for turning theory into practice, I believe, is to understand and compare three decision making processes of power, democratic, and consultative. Only through such an analysis can we realize how far down the consultative path we have come and how much further we have to go. Check out my perspectives on consultation.

Comment by Carol Etkin on September 27, 2012 at 2:43pm

good stuff

Guiding Principles

Starting From Within, Working in a Circle, in a Sacred Manner, We Heal and Develop Ourselves, Our Relationships, and the World.

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