Our Principles

Fourth-Way Guiding Principles For Building a More Sustainable and Harmonious World

These Sixteen Guiding 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, leaders, and thinkers, as well as in the best thinking of many non-aboriginal scholars, researchers and human and community development practitioners. These are the guiding principles and values that will guide all of the programs, processes, interactions and activities of the Four Worlds Foundation in Panama and its sister affiliates throughout the Americas.

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 life 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.

The Sixteen Guiding Principles

Starting from within, working in a circle, in a sacred manner, we heal ourselves, our relationships, and our world.

Starting From Within

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1. 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.
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2. Development Comes from Within

The process of human and community development unfolds from within each person, relationship, family organization, community or nation.
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3. 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.

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4. Healing Is a Necessary Part of Development

Healing the past, closing 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.

Working in a Circle

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5. Interconnectedness

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.
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6. 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.
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7. 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.
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8. Justice and Equality

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

In A Sacred Manner

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9. Spirit

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.
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10. Morals & Ethics

Sustainable human and community development requires a moral foundation centered in the wisdom of the heart. When this foundation is lost, morals and ethical principles decline and development stops.
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11. 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 the well-being for others is not acceptable nor sustainable.
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12. Authentic Development Is Culturally Based

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

We Heal and Develop Ourselves, Our Relationships and Our World

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13. Learning

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.
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14. Sustainability

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.
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15. 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.
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16. 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.