The Four Worlds International Institute

Sixteen Indigenous Guiding Principles for Co-Creating a Sustainable, Harmonious, Prosperous World

The Sixteen Principles for building a sustainable, harmonious and prosperous world, emerged from a 50-year process of reflection, consultation and action within Indigenous communities across the Americas. They are rooted in the concerns of hundreds of Indigenous Elders, Spiritual Leaders, and Community Members, as well as in the best thinking of many non- Indigenous scholars, researchers and human and community development practitioners. As our Universe and ourselves, these Principles are always in a draft! Input is always appreciated. 

These guiding principles 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 interrelationship with all life on Mother Earth. They describe the way we must work and what we must protect and cherish.

We offer these Guiding Principles as a gift to all who seek to build a sustainable and harmonious Global 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 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 who 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.


All is related to everything else: therefore, any aspect of our healing and development is connected 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 universal 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 healing and development.

Every person (regardless of gender, race, age, culture, religion, sexual orientation) has the right and is 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 the 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 on the wisdom of the heart. When this foundation is lost, morals and ethical principles decline and development stop.

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 cultures 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 way visible.

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Comment by Bruce Schuman on October 5, 2018 at 12:00pm

We are building these ideas into our new and emerging Pine Ridge Community Network --

Comment by Douglas Francis Mitchell on May 28, 2012 at 2:57pm

Profound truths that are reiterated in many cultures and philosophies. It seems that as I journey and learn from books, experiences and relationships, these common truths are presented and explained in various ways. Just wondering why we human beings don't seem to 'get it'?

Comment by Bruce Schuman on May 26, 2012 at 12:33pm

For me -- this is a stunning list, of profound significance.  In 2009, I heard about a statement composed by Jon Ramer and Chief Phil Lane, entitled "Deep Social Networks and the Digital Fourth Way", which introduced me to this general theme.  

This PDF is available here:

Jon Ramer is a cutting-edge visionary organizer currently involved with "Compassion Seattle".  I first met Jon at a conference about 2007, and he tipped me off to another profound overview, of "group process", which for me amounted to a one-document university course in emerging new collaborative technologies.

That PDF, entitled "Mapping Dialogue", is available here:

What I see emerging now -- and which I hope to clearly articulate soon -- is a "digital design" capable of integrating -- holding together in one place -- the full spectrum of these myriad elements, as a kind of "seed of the sacred tree" -- perhaps to help initiate a birthing process that interconnects the powerful forces for illuminated community arising in so many different ways around the world.

The introduction to the Digital Fourth Way states

This paper is written for “changemakers” working with communities committed to making just and
lasting change. It bridges linear and holistic thinking systems by applying ancient wisdom to a new
medium of communication - social networks - and the emerging sharing economy.

A linear worldview is a polarity-based,win-lose thinking system that is scientific, analytical,
competitive and hierarchical. A holistic worldview is creative, spiritual, cooperative, harmonious
and balanced. At this moment in time we need integrated solutions that synthesize and honor
these distinct world views. By adapting our different thinking systems,we can remove barriers to
mutual understanding and work together to shift the direction of cultural change.

In my world today, the birth of this new vision seems compulsory.  It is demanded of us.  It is our most sacred treasure and vision and hope for everything good -- but its birth into the world is not easy.  It transcend our individual capacity to conceive, and spans the entire range of human understanding.  As I work on these things, I feel stretched somewhat like a mother is stretched as she gives birth to her child.

Phil Lane tells us that these guiding principles have emerged from a sustained 40-year collaborative process of consultation and reflection.  I, too, have been on the trail for 40 years, gathering related elements.  As I am sensing these things -- I would say that this call to deep digital community, as an integrating/cohering framework, guided from the level of deep intuition, can and will interconnect thousands or millions of elements in a conscious and intentional framework carrying highest illumination and hope.

Comment by amy rigg on May 26, 2012 at 4:30am

I like how y'all say "walk slowly down the hill ... " i feel ya ♥

Comment by Paul Tobin-Coyote Song on May 25, 2012 at 5:28pm

Thank you.

Comment by Stephen Bamford on May 25, 2012 at 1:59pm

These are beautiful,powerful, good words and a reminder of right conduct in this life.  The challenge is to walk with these principles ever-present in our hearts and minds and as at least one great Elder, Sun Bear, used to say, "to walk in balance."  Many thanks to you, Chief Lane for bringing this to us so that we might continue to "pray on it" and where we can, " much more than believe if we're ever going to change things" as Dave Matthews sings in his song "Gaucho."  What I'm saying is we've got to put these principles of the Elders into action starting with ourselves. 

Comment by Bruce Schuman on May 25, 2012 at 11:56am

This is great, as usual, and thanks.  I am doing what I can to assimilate these ideas -- maybe verbatim -- in our emerging "Circle2012" project -- which is a kind of intergroup alliance process built on principles like (or identical to) these.

Comment by amy rigg on May 25, 2012 at 3:35am

i'm a blessed charmed human to have gotten hit by this ripple of truth and being here now.  thanks y'all i love you.

Comment by Grace Alvarez Sesma on June 30, 2011 at 9:21am
Tlazokamati, thank you, for sharing your wisdom and vision. I have shared this on my Curanderismo FB page as a reminder to us all that we indeed are all Related and only in unity will we effect positive changes. Ometeotl.
Comment by Greg Jackson on March 28, 2010 at 6:53am
Dear Brother Phil:

I it always good to see these principles again and be reminded of the vision and path ahead for everyone. Not a few events of recent days in my life and as I reflect upon the complications of negotiations and issues tied to relationships in Asia, the 16 principles, if adopted would have solved many deep problems. I look forward to continuing to be a peacemaker in our walk together the remainder of our days. Take care old buffalo and let us walk slowly down the hill. With warm regards, Greg Jackson

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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