The Four Worlds International Institute

The Fourth Way-An Indigenous Strategy for Building Sustainable and Harmonious Prosperity in the Americas and Beyond

The Fourth Way

An Indigenous Strategy to Build Sustainable and Harmonious Prosperity in the Americas and Beyond







The Sixteen Guiding Principles                                                                                   

A Brief History of the Sixteen Principles                                                                

An Indigenous Perspective                                                                                      

Indigenous Response                                                                                               

Indigenous Analysis                                                                                                  

Towards Implementing the Fourth World Strategy                                          

An Indigenous Cultural and Spiritual Awakening and Growing Unity                   

So What’s the Fourth Way?                                                                               

Is This Realistic?                                                                                                        


An Indigenous-to-Indigenous Call For Action                                                         


The Fourth Way is a movement of the Human Family to address the unfolding crisis of the 21st century, a crisis of multiple dimensions that has slowly revealed itself over the last 12 years since publishing the first Draft of the Fourth Way.  The size and the scope of this crisis are unprecedented in that it is global and multifaceted involving the prospect of economic, political, social and ecological chaos.  The result of this crisis is the birthing of a fundamental organic change on a level few Human beings now contemplate. 

The inhabitants of Mother Earth now face a choice. Will we will emerge from this crisis into a new golden age of human understanding or will we will continue to witness greater and greater social conflict, increasing human suffering, the loss of ecological health and democratic society. Until we believe that we can build a New World Civilization, based in the Oneness of the Human Family and all Living Beings,  free of inequality, injustice, and abuse of any form, our suffering will continue to deepen! 

This Global Transformation of consciousness will prove to be the most significant global challenge experienced by the Human Family since the dawn of recorded Human History. This transformation will change the very foundations of modern economics, the nation-state, our social structures, current agricultural and eating practices, religious cooperation and respect, and contemporary politics. 

Stated simply, among other equally crucial dimensions, like the environment, we have reached the end of a long cycle of credit and debt expansion increasingly characterized by destructive asset bubbles, income stagnation, and the enormous concentration of wealth and political power in the hands of the corporate-led global financial elite.  The debt is now due! Current income will not pay!.  In addition to un-payable debt, we face a massive volume of derivatives on that debt that would come due if and when the debt goes into default.  Since the debt is unpayable, we face the prospect of a global crisis that will unravel the traditional financial and political order on a worldwide basis.

 If you add to the mix the impact of a hard landing in China, the potential for serious global economic problems is now clear. The struggle of ordinary people for economic survival, political power, and even for the right to have a degree of personal privacy and autonomy will characterize the next years.  Modern communications, computing power, and crowd suppression techniques have radically increased the capacity to track and record all human interactions whether via telephone, cell phone, e-mail, car, train, bus or plane, and to brutally suppress all dissent.  These changes have all happened in the last five years.  Equally, if utilized in a collaboratively, principle-centered, purposeful manner these digital communications technologies can be invaluable tools to for forging a whole new social, political, economic, spiritual, cultural relationship between all Members of the Human Family!

Our environment is increasingly unstable as our climate changes. The last several years have been some of the hottest on record, and we are witnessing unprecedented drought conditions in many parts of the world.  The severity of storms is increasing, and we have seen several category five tornados wreak havoc in many parts of the world. 

As the Fukushima nuclear disaster demonstrates, current designs expose us to the risk of atomic meltdowns if power and water are cut off to any nuclear plant—and there are thousands globally.  We have entered into a new age of energy insecurity.

Modern corporate agricultural techniques destroy soil health, compromise water quality and create massive dead zones in our gulfs and bays.  Confined animal feeding operations add to the environmental havoc.  Traditional farmers are in an enormous disadvantage as developed economies continue crop subsidies and other policies that destroy rural economies in the developing world.

Meanwhile, human health is deteriorating at a rapid pace as an epidemic of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease devastates the developed world.  Food prices are rising while the nutritional quality of food deteriorates.  We need to return to a diet of fresh whole, natural foods such as pioneered by our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

The Fourth Way describes and points the way for Indigenous Peoples to return to their roots and in the process contribute to the survival of our Human Family and the protection, health, and restoration of our Mother Earth.  We must relearn the contributions Indigenous Peoples have made to human health and prosperity, to cooperative human social institutions, democratic governance, and human dignity and equality so that we can apply those lessons to the crisis at hand.   We must re-learn to tools of human survival through cooperative effort, partnership, trust, and reciprocity.  So let us review some of this history.

After a long winter time of loss and grieving it is now time for the Indigenous Peoples of Mother Earth to awaken and help lead us through the struggles ahead.  The winter for the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and beyond has lasted over 500 years.  This spiritual winter began with a “great die-off” of 90-95% of all Indigenous Peoples 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 Indigenous Peoples perished from disease by the mid- 1600’s, a catastrophe on an even grander scale than the “black deaths” in Europe. Many more died afterward as the direct result of hostile colonial policies. Thus, Indigenous Peoples have been subjected to profound challenges resulting from intergenerational trauma, the loss of identity, and culture, and have experienced great poverty and abuse. Indigenous people need to reclaim their customs, values, and traditions and to take advantage of common material resources to play a critical role in humanity’s advancement thus fulfilling their highest potential.

History shows that Indigenous Peoples made essential contributions to the Human Family before the devastation of the long foretold, great spiritual wintertime.   If we start with food, we find that 85% of the foods we eat each day throughout our Mother Earth were developed and cultivated by Indigenous agronomists in the Americas before the European conquest.  The development of many of these foods represented remarkable scientific accomplishments. Europeans used these new foods to improve health and nutrition leading to a population explosion throughout Europe, especially in Ireland and Scotland ultimately increasing the number of colonists in the New World.  These foods include potatoes, corn, peanuts, squash, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, chocolate, and many types of beans, berries, and fruits.   

Further, tobacco, sugar cane, and rubber were developed in the Americas and had a profound impact on global economic growth as the North American fur trade.  Indigenous agronomists developed a form of cotton that had longer fibers and made weaving cloth much more manageable. Europeans had previously worn mostly linen and wool.  Indigenous weavers wove some of the most beautiful cotton cloth available anywhere and wore these colorful clothes every day.  Many of the vast fortunes of Europe and their colonies and the comfortable cultured lives of the economic elite based on these Indigenous products and black slavery see Jack Weatherford, Native Roots,  Indian Givers.

The gold and silver of the Americas increased the supply of money and led to great fortunes throughout Europe.  The discovery of an island off the coast of Ecuador with hundreds of feet of compacted bird droppings fertilized the crops of Europe until the development of petroleum-based fertilizers.  The bounty of foods, timber, minerals, fertile land and the oil and gas found throughout the Americas truly made the developed world we see today.

Indigenous Peoples gave the world its first view of human freedom. While most assume that Indigenous Peoples of North America adapted to the colonists, the facts show that at least in the beginning in North America, the adaptation went the other way and fused into a unique “Americanism.”  As Ian Fraizer notes in his book On the Rez, “when Columbus landed, there were about eleven people in Europe who could do whatever they felt like doing.”  In many parts of the Americas, tens of millions of Indigenous Peoples customarily lived as they pleased via the Indigenous Legal Order. The colonists saw this and concluded that if Indigenous Peoples living in freedom “no tyranny can hold us.” Everyday examples of individual freedom among the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas inspired writers throughout Europe and helped spur the Enlightenment and the American and French Revolutions. These writers included Rousseau, John Locke, Thomas Moore, Voltaire, Jefferson, and even Shakespeare.  See Jose Barreiro, Indian Roots of American Democracy. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington all spoke Mohawk and had an on-going dialogue with Iroquois Confederacy. 

Members of the Iroquois Confederacy attended extensive meetings with the colonists in the years before the American Revolution and advised unity based on a system of self-government similar to the Confederacy that ruled the Iroquois Confederacy.  The Iroquois Confederacy lasted for centuries, keeping the peace across a broad swath of North America and was a fundamental influence in the manifestation of the Federal system adopted by the United States and the ideals embodied in Declaration of Independence.

In many nations, women were well respected and exercised real power. In some cases, tribal societies were matriarchal.  Most tribes were egalitarian and accepted each tribal member for the contributions they could each make to the welfare of the tribe. Even highly specialized civilizations like the Aztecs,  Incas, and Mayans, offered better nutrition, better hygiene, and a better standard of living than did any European society — the largest and most prosperous cities in the world lasting in the Americas during much of early history.

Europeans were amazed at the bounty of available foods and at the fact that many Indigenous Peoples were taller and healthier than most Europeans.   Many Indigenous Peoples learned to use such their resources in an equal and sustainable way.  The Iquitos area of the Northern Peruvian Amazon is still considered one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world.  In 1542, one explorer Francisco de Orellana remarked that there was enough food in one village to feed an army of a thousand for one year. This abundance of food was found throughout the Americas, but has since been lost and replaced by the non-sustainable agricultural practices and mono-cropping techniques that characterize modern farming.  These non-sustainable agricultural practices and mono-cropping techniques have led to the loss of knowledge of the methods of permaculture that served Indigenous Peoples for centuries.  Now, most Indigenous Peoples suffer from levels of malnutrition and chronic disease that were unknown before colonization.   All reversed by a revival of the farming and permaculture techniques pioneered by Indigenous Peoples.

One example of sustainable farming technology was the development of “terra preta” or “Indian dark earth” by Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon.  This ingenious combination of partially combusted organic material (a form of charcoal), with pottery shards, stimulated microfauna and created high levels of microbial biomass dramatically increasing soil fertility and allowed the soil fertility for years with minimal fertilization. The Kayapo in central Amazonia continues to create terra preta today.  Instead of destroying soil fertility, Indigenous people learned how to improve the soil sustainably, something that modern humans have not yet learned to do.  Much of the Amazon basin was one huge permaculture providing a variety of healthy sustainable food—allowing to the genius of the Indigenous population that had learned to work with and not against, Mother Earth.  See, Charles C. Mann, 1491. 

The Fourth Way will renew this tradition of working with Mother Nature in a way that benefits all Members of the Human Family.


The Fourth Way reflects the view that the Human Family is at a crossroad facing diverging paths; on one side lays 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”, the likeminded Indigenous Peoples of Mother Earth, offer the Fourth Way based on the conviction that Indigenous Peoples, in the fullest sense of our understanding,   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 our Indigenous Peoples who care for Mother Earth and all living beings hold an important key to peace, security and sustainable well-being for all members of the Human Family. In the Fourth Way, we discuss the issues and outline a strategy for the constructive engagement of all concerned.  Our collective future is at stake.  

The implementation of the Fourth Way requires each of us to look at the world around us in a new way.  We are accustomed to seeing the world through a prism uniquely anchored in our background, experience, and to the narrative or founding “myth” of our Indigenous land or group. Centered on spiritual belief and tradition, we must learn to respect both spiritual faith and religious differences. The Fourth Way honors and appreciates all forms of spiritual understanding, 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.


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 saw in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all forms 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.

Then as I stood there, two men were coming from the east, head first like arrows flying, and between them rose the Daybreak Star. They came and gave a herb to me and said: "With this on earth you shall undertake anything and do it." It was the Daybreak-Star herb, the herb of understanding, and they told me to drop it on the earth. I saw it falling far, and when it struck the earth it rooted and grew and flowered, four blossoms on one stem, a blue, a white, a scarlet, and a yellow; and the rays from these streamed upward to the heavens so that all creatures saw it and in no place was there darkness.

The Four Worlds Guiding Principles for Building a Sustainable and

Harmonious World


These 16 principles 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 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 relationship with Mother Earth.  They describe the way we must work and what we must protect and cherish.

We offer these principles 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 an 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 universal harmony 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) 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. 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 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 road visible.


 A Brief History of the Sixteen Principles


The Sixteen Principles 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 a 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 principles 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 principles are as follows:

1. Development From Within

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

2. No Vision; No Development

If 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’ conference was called to review the work underway, 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 Guiding Principles and Indigenous visions and prophesies of the future.   

Finally, for seven days, in the summers of 1993 and 1994, Summer Institutes were held at the University of  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 Guiding Principles emerged from this participatory development process. Thes Guiding Principles reflect what works, and is needed,  in the process of community transformation toward sustainable well-being and prosperity. 

It is important to note that these Sixteen Guiding Principles have been tested and reviewed by many Indigenous (and other) communities, and have been found to be a practical guide for positive transformational processes.  A principle is not a recipe, however; it is a statement of fundamental truth.  It describes the nature of things as they are, what is primary or essential, what works and what doesn’t, what to include, and what cannot be left out.  These Sixteen Guiding Principles 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 Guiding Principles, as with all life, are in the draft.  They are not the last word.  We have certainly not learned all that we have to learn.  New guiding principles 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.  

 An Indigenous Perspective

The Indigenous Peoples of Mother Earth, who still have a connection to their land, language, culture, history and spiritual traditions, are the poorest and most socially and politically marginalized populations in every country in which they reside.  They have the poorest health, the worst levels of infant and child mortality, they are the most exposed and vulnerable to environmental pollutants, they have the lowest levels of education and the highest levels of perceived powerlessness, political oppression, and frustration.

Indeed, many Indigenous Peoples have been, and are still being, pushed into extremes of poverty and misery, or even to the brink of extinction in some regions, all in the name of “progress” or “development.”  Many have been forced to leave their traditional lands, sometimes at gunpoint, after having been falsely accused of being “rebels” (or, more recently, “terrorists”) by those who intended to profit from the seizure of Indigenous land. Indigenous land holds much of the world’s remaining natural resources, including oil and gas as well as a host of other minerals, forest products, and, of course, water which, as the foundation of all life, is increasingly being commodified.

Millions of Indigenous Peoples have watched helplessly as their traditional means of livelihood were wiped out by unsustainable environmental practices used by sizeable transnational fishing, timber, oil, and mining corporations, by plantation style agricultural operations, and by sizeable government-subsidized agribusiness corporations usurping agricultural markets in their countries.  Hundreds of thousands of Indigenous small farmers can no longer earn a basic income because of the intentional destruction of local agrarian markets through predatory global trade practices dictated by the agribusiness industry.  These farmers have joined the millions of illegal immigrants flooding into the United States.  When viewed through the eyes of Indigenous people, these conditions are not exaggerations; they are the unembellished facts of life.

An Indigenous Response

Over the years, there have been a variety of responses among Indigenous Peoples to this cruel set of conditions, 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 broken trust, and through building constructive partnerships with all nations and peoples.  These elders and spiritual leaders have continued to believe in the ancient prophecies. These prophecies include the Reunion of the Condor and the Eagle, the Eighth Council Fire, the Return of Quetzalcoatl and the Return of the White Buffalo. As well, the Hopi and Mayan Prophecies and the fulfillment of Black Elk’s Daybreak Star Prophesy.  In the past, their wise voices and vision were overcome by those who advocated resistance and violence.  We believe that the time has now come to witness the fulfillment of their vision.  

Indigenous Peoples have traditions rooted in community, sharing, reciprocity and mutual responsibility somewhat akin to the political philosophies at the foundation of the Canadian confederation: namely, that every person is a “trust of the whole,” and as such holds rights and privileges as well as responsibilities.  For example, it is likely that many Indigenous movements will oppose private ownership of natural resources, but would support the development of these resources if the community benefits.

Policy makers need to understand that attempting to make policy without understanding culture is a dead end and that one cannot equate culture with values.  Culture is what people share, not just what they believe.   Indigenous people share BOTH culture AND a system of values often different from that of the developed world.  There is an Indigenous Legal Order

A critical factor in diffusing violence and advancing economic prosperity is developing an understanding of what it is like to see the world (past, present, and future) through the eyes of those who believe they have nothing left to lose.  With the rise of Indigenous leadership in America's, there is new hope created with the prospect of political power as the result of recent successes in elections reviving the hope of changing unresponsive governments.  The old passive resignation replaced by social and political activism, but chronic poverty and lack of power endure.  This rise of Indigenous leadership is a potent recipe for one of two outcomes:  conflict, or renewal and advancement.  Those who hope for peaceful and harmonious results should support renewal and progress.  

An Indigenous Analysis

Conversations with Indigenous leaders across the Americas have provided the following analysis:

  1. A.    Indigenous Peoples are facing grinding poverty and have endured the ongoing suppression of self-development efforts by our governments (i.e., the governments of the nation states in which they reside, including many Indigenous communities within Canada and the U.S.).  Now, in some regions around Mother Earth, there is hope for change.  What will the reaction of the world community be?  Will self-development and new leadership be supported or crushed by violence, assassination or lack of support?
  2. B.    Many Indigenous Peoples see only three options:
    1. 1. Assimilation - to give up our Indigenous identities, our history, our culture, our spiritual beliefs and our way of life, and become part of the blended homogenous mass.  Some of our people have tried to do this, and most of them have lost their land and remain marginalized, poor and increasingly desperate.
    2. 2. Resignation -to accept powerlessness, poverty, victimization, sickness, and despair as our destiny; in other words, to give up.
    3. 3. Resistance to enter into organized struggles to defend our lands, our families and our lives, and to win concessions from our governments.   Resistance can range from non-violent protests to armed conflict and can even include participation in the black market for drugs and weapons. 

We believe that there is the Fourth Way: Empowerment and Constructive Development to create organized Indigenous and related social movements focused on promoting the well-being and prosperity of people and electing and supporting leaders who are genuinely responsive to the majority of the people. Leaders who will not only improve education, health care, infrastructure, and economic development but will also work to create social and political “spaces” within the countries where Indigenous people reside, for genuine participation in an inclusive and equitable project of rebuilding nations.

This approach is not merely political.  It also implies a systematic reclamation and recovery of Indigenous cultural foundations, identity and language, and the re-anchoring of social, economic and political change in the spiritual and cultural values and traditional knowledge at the heart of Indigenous cultures.  This approach in no way implies a retreat into the historical past, but rather it is an active engagement in the challenge of shaping the future of nations within the framework of life-preserving, life-enhancing, and sustainable values and patterns of action in harmony with all members of the human family.

Indigenous leaders have noted that those Indigenous groups that take up arms get a great deal of attention.  If those who participate politically and win elections achieve nothing.  If not, violence and armed struggle will be all that is left, from some perspectives. 

This active participation not only has implications for Indigenous communities but also for the rest of the Hemisphere’s marginalized poor, many of whom have Indigenous roots and are increasingly identifying with their Indigenous backgrounds. These relatives have significant cultural, spiritual, economic and political contributions to make in implementing and developing the Fourth Way strategy across the Americas.


Towards Implementing the Fourth Way Strategy

We spoke earlier of four options. Indigenous people see for themselves in all of this: Assimilation, Resignation, Resistance or Constructive Development.  Empowerment and Constructive Development is the “Fourth Way” that will lead to sustainable peace, social justice, and shared economic prosperity should it be vigorously and wholeheartedly pursued.  As shared earlier, this is a pathway that has always been known and advocated by Indigenous spiritual leaders.  It is a way of healing, peace and partnership building. 

What is relatively new is that many leaders of Indigenous movements across the Americas are now more open than ever to “The Fourth Way” because they are beginning to see that the other three pathways (and especially the pathway of violence and conflict) are creating even deeper misery and suffering for their people.  Many Indigenous people have tried the other three pathways and understand that another path is necessary. The challenge is that “The Fourth Way” is not a path. Indigenous people can walk solely on their own.  They will need the collaboration, support, and true partnership of their governments, the business community, NGOs and international funding agencies. 

In the work of Four Worlds across the Americas over the years, we have had the opportunity to sit in community-level meetings with thousands of Indigenous people and their leadership from many different tribes and nations.  What we have seen and heard in these meetings is the same consistent message:

  1. The vast majority of Indigenous peoples want what most people everywhere on Mother Earth want. They want peace, freedom from poverty and disease and to end oppression. As well, a respect for their cultures, languages, and Mother Earth, a reasonable level of sustainable prosperity and well-being for their families and communities, access to education (including higher education), opportunities to sustainably and harmoniously participate in the global economy, and a meaningful voice in shaping the policies, programs and conditions that impact their lives.
  2. Governments who hold the reins of political and economic power in their countries,  often present a stone wall of ignorance, prejudice, and greed, with no significant will to understand the appalling realities and conditions of Indigenous peoples.  They have no real awareness that their wealth production activities (in oil, gas, agriculture, forestry, mining, etc.) are, at best, cutting Indigenous people out of any opportunity for economic advancement, and, at worst, setting into motion environmental, economic, political and social forces that are directly destroying the lives of Indigenous communities.  With new leadership coming to power across the hemisphere, it is essential that political change is carefully channeled to achieve positive outcomes.  The current struggles in Bolivia demonstrate the challenges political leaders face in reconciling competing interests both nationally and internationally.
  3. As viewed through the eyes of many Indigenous people, the forces of globalization, centered in institutions and programs, like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and giant transnational corporations, and much so-called aid and development programs also seem to be driven by the policies of the wealthy and powerful. These policies (it is perceived) are creating and perpetuating the intolerable conditions with which Indigenous people are now living.  This perception continues despite the supposed efforts of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to increase their focus on the role of spirituality and culture in development.
  4. Indigenous people are increasingly becoming organized and politicized in their efforts to pressure governments and international institutions for change.  Their organizations and movements are powerful enough to directly challenge and destroy the legitimacy and power of some governments. Indigenous people have been successful recently in electing leaders who have pledged their support for changing this pattern.  Will these new government leaders be successful? Now, as governments elected with Indigenous participation and leadership take power, it is critical that they succeed, and that the movement of harmonious constructive development through spiritual empowerment spread across the Americas.  Indigenous people across the Americas are asking: what will be the response of the developed world to these new political movements?  Will they be supported or undermined and opposed?  Will we see constructive engagement and development or a new cycle of militarization, assassinations and military coups?  


An Indigenous Cultural and Spiritual Awakening and Growing Unity

Despite the challenges, there is a spiritual awakening occurring throughout the Indigenous world.  This awakening is coming from within Indigenous Peoples in response to years of suffering and potential destruction, as well as from their cultural and spiritual treasures of Sacred prophecies, gifts, teachings, songs, ceremonies and the spiritual guidance of wise teachers and elders both past and present.  Throughout the Indigenous world, there is a mosaic of prophecies that share, in essence, that after a very long wintertime of spiritual and physical suffering, a new spiritual springtime will emerge for Indigenous Nations, Tribes and Peoples which will lead to a spiritual awakening among other members of the human family throughout the Americas and around the world.

As this global awakening progresses, a powerful new spirit and energy are releasing within the Indigenous world.  This empowering spirit has its roots in the Indigenous peoples’ strong belief in the promises of ultimate justice and renewal found within Indigenous prophecies. This growing, animating, dynamic,  and empowering spirit can be directed towards rapidly and systematically building a new global civilization, beginning in the Americas or co-opted and translated into further insurgencies, violence, and terror.  This choice is the decision we face.  The ancient prophecies of an Indigenous awakening and renewal are steadily moving toward fulfillment.  This development should be welcomed, as the prophecies also speak of how this Indigenous awakening and renewal will benefit the entire human family by helping to usher in an era of global peace prosperity and well being.

So what is the “Fourth Way”?

The Fourth Way consists of a multi-pronged strategy for empowering Indigenous peoples to move toward sustainable peace, prosperity, and well-being, taking into account the history, culture, and values of Indigenous communities. The Fourth Way entails the following lines of action: 

I. Constructive diplomatic work,  top down and bottom up, to empower Indigenous people and assist governments and national and international institutions to make critical policy and program shifts to create an environment for viable partnerships between Indigenous peoples across the hemisphere and between Indigenous people and the governments of the countries in which they reside.  This diplomatic work would, as well, assist Indigenous leaders to move past feelings of mistrust and suspicion, and into a process of consultation leading to effective partnerships.

 What is needed are new strategic initiatives that will allow Indigenous people to contribute to and receive a just share of the wealth of the nation states in which they reside, but which also do not require those now in positions of wealth and power to feel that they will lose everything.  The guiding principle of these strategic initiatives should be harmonizing the extremes of wealth and poverty.  We see each government’s diplomatic corps playing a critical role in this aspect of the work, in partnership with specialists in Indigenous peoples’ development.

II. Partnership Building-Extensive and sustained partnership-building work are needed.

  1. a) Inter-Indigenous partnerships.  These will entail partnerships between Indigenous people and nations across the Americas for mutual assistance in the development, economic cooperation, and educational activities.  These partnerships and related activities should include exchange programs in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish through the creation of language institutes (especially for young people); as well as scholarships and internships focused on building Indigenous capacity and developing Indigenous leadership necessary to implement the Fourth Way;
  2. b) Indigenous to Government Partnerships.  Constructive partnerships established between Indigenous people and the government of the countries in which they reside, aimed at giving Indigenous people a real voice in shaping the policies and programs that impact them.  These partnerships must ultimately result in significant improvements in the social and economic life of the Indigenous communities;
  3. c) Indigenous Institutions and international development agencies.  Collaborative working partnerships are also required between appropriate Indigenous institutions and selected NGOs and international development and funding agencies, focused on various aspects of development assistance and capacity building;
  4. d) Expand partnerships between newly elected Indigenous leadership along with the Governments they now control, and the Governments of Canada and the U.S. need to include direct support and assistance in advancing development objectives, diffusing conflict and violence and stopping militarization, assassinations, and military coups.
  5. e)North-south Indigenous Peoples’ partnerships.  Finally, collaborative working partnerships need to be developed between Indigenous Peoples in the north (Canada and the United States) and their counterparts in the south, to allow for the sharing of knowledge, capacity, and resources for mutual aid, trade, and development.

This connection existed for centuries before it was broken apart by European colonization and the subsequent decimation of Indigenous nations across the Americas.  For example, an ancient prophecy predicts the “Reunion of the people of the Condor (i.e., Indigenous people of the South), and the people of the Eagle, (i.e., the Indigenous people of the North),” and predicts that when realized, a great era of peace, well-being and prosperity will follow.  So strong is the belief in this prophecy among Indigenous people that the Otomi people in the state of Mexico have built a vast ceremonial amphitheater dedicated to the “Reunion of the Condor and the Eagle.”  The focal point of this fantastic construction (which rivals the ancient Mayan, Aztec and Zapateca pyramids in its size, grace and beauty, and which was primarily built by the volunteer labor of thousands of poor Indigenous people out of love and faith in the prophecy) is a gigantic stone carving of a Condor and an Eagle joined in loving embrace.  

It was at this location that the first Reunion of the Condor and Eagle, International Indigenous Trade and Social Development Agreement and Unity Pact was signed,  on May 5, 1999, between Indigenous Leaders of more than 100,000 peoples from Mexico and representatives of First Nations from Canada and the U.S.

Following the first Reunion of the Condor and Eagle Agreement and Unity Pact in Mexico, further Sacred Agreements and Unity Pacts based in the Sixteen Principles signed at the Indigenous Summit of the Americas in Ottawa, Ontario in March 2001, and at the Reunion of the Condor and The Eagle Indigenous Action Summit in the Commonwealth of Dominica in March 2003.  These Sacred Unity Pacts now unite Indigenous representatives and their allies from Greenland, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Guyana, Guatemala, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and the Commonwealth of Dominica, with populations of more than 57 million Indigenous peoples.  As well, in April 2002, a fourth Sacred Agreement and Unity Pact was signed in Bern, Switzerland, with Canadian and European supporters and NGOs. 

III.       The creation of effective participatory governance institutions and mechanisms through which Indigenous people can negotiate constructively with governments and the business community to address their ongoing needs and concerns, and through which they can manage and direct their development programs and processes.

 IV.       Targeted and sustained development assistance to support comprehensive social and economic development programs in the heart of Indigenous nations focusing on such critical issues as education, social and economic development, leadership, governance and institution building, and civil society.  The focus should also be on strengthening, food production and food security, business and enterprise development, sustainable environment and resource management, primary health care, cultural revitalization, and building and preserving a culturally appropriate social safety net.  This targeted aid must be sustained for at least a decade, as capacity is building and a self-sustaining process of development fostered.

In essence, the Fourth Way (a pathway that moves beyond assimilation, resignation and resistance to actual empowerment) works towards Indigenous nation building and development and occurs within a context of cooperation and partnership with government, business, and civil society in general as well as within the legal framework of each nation-state within which Indigenous peoples reside.

Is This Realistic?

Twenty years ago, such a proposal might have seemed fanciful,  outside the context of Indigenous communities, but events in New York, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Syria,  Russia, Georgia., Palestine, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, the European Union, and many other places have overtaken us.   These events, made it crystal clear,  that the disempowered and impoverished masses can no longer be considered as a “neutral” environmental factor,  ignored in the process of doing business and running countries.

At this stage in history, no country in the Americas can afford to continue doing "business as usual." The risks are too great.  While it is true that to make the shifts required in a "fourth way" approach will not be without costs, the costs of failing to invest in Indigenous Peoples’ development and that of those who have become the “marginalized poor” will be very great indeed, and holds the potential to destabilize entire societies.

The Fourth Way strategy and analysis respects human dignity, calls for the empowerment of people and comprises a framework for action that can be implemented anywhere in the world where sustainable development and nation-building constitute critical lines of work in diffusing terror, violence and poverty, and creating conditions that lead to constructive growth, spiritual empowerment, social justice, and economic prosperity.  


Ending terror and violence cannot be accomplished by military means alone.  We must also assist in empowering people to achieve a socially just and reasonable measure of well-being and prosperity in their lives.  Recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan seems to show that a heavy-handed military “solution” may make situations much more difficult to resolve.  Indeed much of what is needed to eliminate the scourge of terror and violence from the face of our Mother Earth is related to empowering the Human Family to become engaged in constructive processes of change, and in bringing processes of harmonious development and social and economic justice to the dispossessed and the poorest in every region of Mother Earth.

The Fourth Way is not merely a strategic option or an alternative path for Indigenous Peoples of the Americas (as well as Human Beings like them elsewhere in the world) to take.  It is the only option leading to sustainable peace and prosperity, and it is, therefore, an essential component in the struggle to end violence and poverty.

This strategy,  selectively employed in other areas of the world, will be successful where the pressure of prolonged social and economic injustice and poverty have significantly increased the susceptibility of those populations to desperate and extreme measures, including terror and violence.

At this uncertain crossroads in human history, Indigenous Peoples and their Allies have a unique and powerful role to play as champions of peacemaking and sustainable development, which are critical lines of action in diffusing violence and poverty across the Americas and around the world. We know that the Governments of Canada and the U.S., as well as other Governments, face difficult and expensive decisions and that national security must have a very high priority.

 The Fourth Way is a Strategic Security Initiative


We submit that the Fourth Way is a strategic security initiative.  From an Indigenous perspective, the Fourth Way offers a strategic option for Indigenous Peoples to provide the spiritual leadership to support the transformation of frustration, violence, hopelessness, and poverty into sustainable and harmonious processes of active development, initially in the Americas and then around the world.


An Indigenous Call for Urgent, Collective Action For Protecting and Restoring the Sacred To All Members of the Human Family

The spiritual foundation of the International Indigenous Leadership Gathering is the understanding of the fundamental oneness and unity of all life. All members of the Human Family are all part of the ancient Sacred Circle of Life. Since we are all part of the Sacred Circle of Life, we are all Indigenous Peoples of our Mother Earth. This reality makes every Human Being responsible for the well-being of one another and all living things upon our Mother Earth.

Therefore, whether or not the nation-states, multinational corporations or international development agencies, that surround us, are willing to participate with us at this time, it is clear our Indigenous Peoples and Allies are moving forward in rebuilding and reunifying the Americas and beyond. Rebuilding and reunifying through the Natural Laws and Guiding Principles that are inherent in our Indigenous World View and Legal Order on an eternal and spiritual enduring foundation.

1. We have the ancient prophecies and the clear vision of a future of social justice and collective prosperity for the Americas, and beyond that, we are in the process of manifesting. This new global civilization that is unfolding, as promised by the Ancient Ones and the Ancient of Days,  fully honors the Natural Laws and Rights of Mother Earth and the Unity and Diversity of Human Family.  This New Spiritual Springtime foretold by our Elders is now unfolding globally, as sure as the sun rises every morning.

2. We have a robust, enduring and unbreakable spiritual foundation of cultural values and guiding principles that have empowered us to survive and arise, with greater strength and wisdom than ever, after great spiritual wintertime. This long spiritual wintertime was filled, at times, with the utmost human cruelty, violence, injustice, abuse, and physical and cultural genocide.

Despite these challenges, throughout the Americas and around Mother Earth, our Indigenous Peoples are reawakening to their spiritual and cultural identities and are healing our Sacred Relationships between ourselves, Mother Earth and all members of the Human Family.

3. Together, with our other Indigenous Peoples and other Members of the Human Family, we have the cultural, spiritual, scientific, technological, social, environmental, economic and agricultural capacities and wisdom needed to co-create and rebuild our Families, Tribes, 8and Nations stronger and more unified than ever before.

4. Our Indigenous Peoples of Mother Earth have the growing collective social and economic capital, coupled with vast natural resources, to bring our greatest dreams and visions to reality. These combined resources include fully protecting, preserving, and restoring our Beloved Mother as the sacred heritage of all generations, yet to come!

Furthermore, it is crystal clear that these collective resources are in the process of empowering us to become a primary spiritual and economic force, not only in the Americas but throughout Mother Earth.

We are destined, in the future, to play a higher and more significant role, as critical global leaders, in wisely mandating the sustainable and harmonious development of Mother Earth's gifts and resources.  We will ensure that the unsustainable development of the natural resources of Mother Earth, no matter how much profit, will be left in their natural state!

Our Sacred Places and the Healthful Life of our Beloved Mother Earth are not for sale and exploitation for any price!

5. We, the Indigenous Peoples of the Eagle of the North (Canada and the U.S.) have the material resources to directly support our Indigenous Relatives of the Condor of the South (Latin America) in developing their collective resources, as they choose. The Condor of the South equally has critical resources to share with the Eagle of the North. Our greatest strength yet to be fully realized is our spiritual and cultural unity.

6.  By utilizing emerging digital communications technologies and similar green technologies and economies, in harmony with our vast, collective social, economic, cultural and spiritual capacities, we are manifesting, as promised, a future with social, environmental and economic justice for all members of the Human Family and our Beloved Mother Earth!

7. The primary challenge that stands before us as Indigenous Peoples and we as a Human Family, in rebuilding the Americas, and beyond, is disunity. This disunity caused by genocide and colonialism. This genocide and colonization have resulted in unresolved inter-generational trauma and internalized oppression that is the process of being fully recognized and addressed.

 As we move courageously and wisely forward, in greater and greater love, compassion, justice, and unity, we are reconnecting to our enduring and unbreakable spiritual and cultural foundation for healing, reconciliation and collective action for “Protecting and Restoring the Sacred," everywhere on  Mother Earth.

With the realization of this spiritual and cultural foundation for prayerful, wise and unified action, all needed for our ultimate victory will gracefully and assuredly unfold at the right times and places, as foretold by our Ancient Ones.

With Warm and Loving Greetings and Our heartfelt Thanksgiving to All the Many Relatives Who Contributed to the Articulation and Vision of the Fourth Way!

Sun Dance Chief Rueben George, Director of Community Development, Tsleil-­‐Waututh Nation

Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr., Chairman -Four Worlds International Institute

Po Box 75027

Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, V4A 7A5

Tele: 1-604-542-8991 Skype: planejr1234

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Comment by Michelle Morning Star Doherty on January 1, 2019 at 2:13pm

So wonderful to be reminded of The Fourth Way on January 1, 2019. Kinanâskomitin, dear Brother Phil. 

Comment by Ken Bear Hawk Cohen on January 1, 2019 at 2:09pm

These good words are more than information; they are a prayer and a spirit that can encourage us to continue our work. I remember when, not long ago, Dear Respected Chief and Kola Phil told me that life is often like a race— you save your best effort for the last laps. As an elder, I know he is doing just that, putting his good mind and heart, in collaboration with others, into a message to help build “sustainable and harmonious prosperity” for the coming generations. Let’s not give in to the apathy and despair of the evening news or our own past traumas, but remain strong in our original values and traditions. All My Relations, Ken (Maskwa Sakwatamow)

Comment by Stephen Bamford on December 8, 2013 at 6:01am

Thanks to Chief Lane’s indomitable spirit of service for all the people, this well crafted document holds what all our Earth’s leaders should have at the heart of the laws that govern us.  This is well worth reading again and again.  The more I read it, the more impressive it is to me.   


This represents all that is good in humanity and it is the most comprehensive, all-encompassing model and design I have seen in a long time.  It is sure to gain ground by its presence and the inspiration it gives even those of us in the human family who are just beginning to learn about these ways.  It is a link that with the positive aspects of conscious growth in technology serves to bring the Sacred Hoop together in a good and respectful way. 


The challenges remain, to address ignorance and unconsciousness that threaten progress, but with this planting of the seed, I fully expect the ancient prophecies of our Elders over the past long sleep of the 500 years to take hold and usher in a new era of love, consciousness and well-being for our precious Mother Earth and all her children. 


The scholarly way in which you and those who worked with you to bring this to fruition is truly representative of the spirit in which you live, bringing the best of what humankind can offer, even in the processing of rising above our personal challenges.  


Thank you, Chief Lane and may your influence and that of all with whom you have consulted and who have had roles in the crafting of this work continue to grow for the benefit of all.  I hope to see more of your ideas on the world stage as these thoughts and concepts take root in the minds of all. 


Many blessings -

Comment by White-Bear on December 4, 2013 at 9:17am

Ich'-hi-ye Broher Phil;

the words that have left your lips are from Shin-d'-ly himself!

Thank you from every fiber of my soul! I must now begin the study of these words!

Thank you again and Blessings to you and your family



(cp#206-245-6872-call me)

Comment by Gloria Lee on December 4, 2013 at 6:05am

This is my first time visiting and I have been skimming your words and have found HOPE.  I have posted to FB and will be sharing with some special friends.  Thank You.  Mitakuye Oyasin.  I will be back.

Comment by VJ Ross on June 20, 2012 at 8:41am

Blessed be!

Comment by jozsef alexander chavez medina on June 20, 2012 at 7:39am

8 years ago Chief Phill Lane Jr White Swan was came to Caracas Venezuela as menber of meeting of united nations called dialogue of civilizations.

In these oportunity i have a privilegue of meet witn him and recibe from a comoun friends a lot of copies of these documents describe here.

All have a very important keys for my service here, and bring me the clear sings to followed the Good Red Road.

Oxcimi GA 146...


Comment by Glenda Lamb-Wilson on June 19, 2012 at 3:34pm

Megwetch - as summer solistice approaches, we need hope. Mitakuye oyasin.



Comment by White-Bear on June 19, 2012 at 10:37am

AHO, brother

Comment by Robin Lee on June 19, 2012 at 10:35am

It always amazes me how some people are willing to follow others without pursuing the facts for themselves. What was signed by our leaders in Rio in 1992 was a plan to bring the planet in "Sustainable and Harmonious Prosperity" through various measures including doing away with all private ownership of land, as well as the lands currently owned by the many Native Nations of this and other countries. The plan CLEARLY defines "zones" where people would be allowed to live with buffer zones around HUGE tracks of land where no human may enter. Couple this with the plan to reduce the human population to approx. 500,000, meaning a reduction of over 6.5 billion people. A copy of  the plan may be purchased currently through the UN bookstore or downloaded online for various sources. DO NOT take my word for it but google "Agenda 21" .....

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