Chapter VII: seventh generation


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In every deliberation we must consider the impact on the seventh generation.

From the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee

(Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy)

The purpose of this chapter is to review issues relevant to articles 6, 14 and 25 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to discuss challenges, HRE, and actions on grassroots and international levels.

The chapter provides:

  • A summary overview of the concept of a seventh generation

  • Definitions of terms and themes

  • Challenges

  • Actions

  • Personal stories


The wellness of Indigenous Peoples lies in the completeness and balance of its Peoples--the many aspects that make a community whole. When there is an imbalance, it disrupts the wellness of the entire community. There have been, and continue to be, different movements within the Indigenous Peoples Movement to reestablish this wholeness, and consequently community wellness. The Indigenous Youth Movement and the increasing participation of young Indigenous Peoples in international events are but two examples. Specifically, The Indigenous Youth Movement is a movement which grew out of the larger Indigenous Peoples Movement for the recognition of the right(s) to Self determination, culture and identity.
Unlike many other social movments, this movement was created as a means to re-establish the balance within communities. The Indigenous Youth Movement believes that maintaining balance is a shared responsibility and obligation of all Indigenous Peoples. As a result, the relationship between youth and elders, men and women, and warriors and healers must be in balance.

Many Indigenous Peoples believe that decisions should be made with the impact on generations to come in mind. This is based on the belief that the actions of the past have a direct impact on Indigenous Peoples today, and will continue to affect Indigenous communities in the future. As a result, Indigenous Peoples have a social and cultural responsibility to make decisions that will ensure the sustainability of Mother Earth, and not adversely affect Indigenous peoples yet to come.

For the purposes of this chapter, we will look at the Draft Declaration as it relates to genocide (Articles 6), language and oral histories and traditions (Article 14), and finally the responsibility of Indigenous Peoples as caretakers of the land and resources so that they may continue to exist in good health for future generations (Article 25).



Comprehensive term for the emergence of a global society in which economic, political, environmental, and cultural events in one part of the world quickly come to have significance for people in other parts of the world. Globalization is the result of advances in communication, transportation, and information technologies. It describes the growing economic, political, technological, and cultural linkages that connect individuals, communities, businesses, and governments around the world. Globalization also involves the growth of multinational corporations (businesses that have operations or investments in many countries) and transnational corporations (businesses that see themselves functioning in a global marketplace). The international institutions that oversee world trade and finance play an increasingly important role in this era of globalization.

Oral History
Oral history is a method of gathering and preserving historical information through recorded interviews with participants in past events and ways of life. It is both the oldest type of historical inquiry, predating the written word, and one of the most modern, initiated with tape recorders in the 1940s.
Story telling

Storytelling predates the written word, people have been telling stories for as long as we have had speech. Even after the invention of writing only a minority had access to the written word. Stories passed from lips to ears, changing as each teller forgot things, or deliberately left them out, and replaced them with their own inventions. This is the ‘oral tradition’. Even now we think in narrative and tell anecdotes, urban myths and personal stories almost without realising it. Stories are learned image by image, rather than word by word, and are retold from the heart in gatherings with friends or in public performance. Each telling will be different as the teller chooses their words to suit their audience. This is oral storytelling.

Traditional Knowledge

Traditional knowledge refers to the knowledge, innovations and practices of Indigenous and local communities around the world. Developed from experience gained over the centuries and adapted to the local culture and environment, traditional knowledge is transmitted orally from generation to generation. It tends to be collectively owned and takes the form of stories, songs, folklore, proverbs, cultural values, beliefs, rituals, community laws, local language, and agricultural practices, including the development of plant species and animal breeds. Traditional knowledge is mainly of a practical nature, particularly in such fields as agriculture, fisheries, health, horticulture, and forestry.

Media Justice

Media Justice speaks to the need to go beyond creating greater access to the same rotten corporate media structure. Media Justice is interested in more than paternalistic conceptualizations of "access," more than paper rights, more than taking up space in a crowded boxcar along the corporate information highway. Media Justice takes into account history, culture, privilege, and power. MJ seeks a new relationship to media and a new vision and reality for its ownership, control, access, and structure. MJ understands that this will require new policies, systems, and structures that will treat airwaves and communities as more

than markets for exploitation.

Food Security

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life


”A process by which an older and more experienced person takes a younger person under his/her wing, freely offering advice, support and encouragement. The older person (the mentor) becomes among other things, a role model who inspires the younger person”(North London College). “A mentor provides a young person with support, counsel, friendship, reinforcement constructive example and can provide a mentee with the benefit of their own life, school or work experience” (Salford Busines Education Partnership).

Our stories are stories of people with a great deal of tenacity and courage, people

who have been resisting for centuries. If we do not resist we will not survive.

In native culture we think ahead to the seventh generation; however, we know

that the ability of the seventh generation to sustain itself will be

dependent on our ability to resist now

Winona LaDuke

Schumacher Lecture, USA.
While public school courses must provide some information about Indigenous Peoples’ and human rights, these issues frequently receive perfunctory treatment. Thus, the rights of Indigenous Peoples’ receive insufficient attention in most classrooms. In order for Indigenous Youth to understand their role in an increasingly global society it is necessary for Native Youth to understand the past successes of Indigenous elders and uncover a new universal human rights’ lens through which they can work on behalf of all Indigenous Peoples.
This process of “learning from the past to understand the future” will assist Indigenous Youth in making the connection between local issues, and international struggles and victories. With this new understanding, Indigenous Youth will be much more qualified to educate others on the rights of individuals throughout the world. Such increased knowledge in Indigenous communities is an essential first step in addressing the root cause of injustices faced by Indigenous Peoples’ today, as well as building International Indigenous Coalitions. As a result, Indigenous Youth will be able to develop an understanding of human rights as an essential tool for advocacy on behalf of Indigenous Peoples’.

The indigenous people of the world possess an immense knowledge of their environments, based on centuries of living close to nature.  Living in and from the richness and variety of complex ecosystems, they have an understanding of the properties of plants and animals, the functioning of ecosystems and the techniques for using and managing them that is particular and often detailed.  In rural communities in developing countries, locally occurring species are relied on for many - sometimes all - foods, medicines, fuel, building materials and other products.  Equally, peoples knowledge and perceptions of the environment, and their relationships with it, are often important elements of cultural identity.

The Director General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Mayor, 1994) defines traditional knowledge:
The Role and Value of Traditional Knowledge

There is today a growing appreciation of the value of traditional knowledge. This knowledge is valuable not only to those who depend on it in their daily lives, but to modern industry and agriculture as well. Many widely used products, such as plant-based medicines and cosmetics, are derived from traditional knowledge. Other valuable products based on traditional knowledge include agricultural and non-wood forest products as well as handicraft.

Traditional knowledge can make a significant contribution to sustainable development. Most indigenous and local communities are situated in areas where the vast majority of the world's plant genetic resources are found. Many of them have cultivated and used biological diversity in a sustainable way for thousands of years. However, the contribution of indigenous and local communities to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity goes far beyond their role as natural resource managers. Their skills and techniques provide valuable information to the global community and a useful model for biodiversity policies. Furthermore, as on-site communities with extensive knowledge of local environments, indigenous and local communities are most directly involved with conservation and sustainable use.

The traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples is developed from experience gained since time immemorial. This knowledge has been adapted to fit each local culture and environment. This knowledge allows Indigenous peoples to live sustainable lives that are in harmony with one another and with the earth. For Indigenous Peoples, traditional knowledge is transmitted through songs, stories, legends, dreams. In almost all of these activities knowledge is transmitted directly from individual to individual. It is transmitted orally from generation to generation. It is collectively owned wisdom that is protected and preserved in the form of stories, songs, lessons and folklore.

These methods and practices are a way of life. They are holistic. The knowledge that is passed on cannot be compartmentalized is not meant to be separated from the people who hold it. The knowledge is sacred, and is responsible for maintaining the spiritual health, culture and language of a people. Without traditional knowledge the very existence of Indigenous Peoples is threatened.

The following is an excerpt from a statement by Amalia Anderson (Mayan), American Indian Treaty Council Representative, at the Media Democracy Conference, October, 2003:
“As Indigenous Peoples’ we believe that reclaiming space from which we have historically been marginalized or excluded is one aspect of our inherent right to self-determination. A youth of color we accept this as a non-negotiable element of our cultural responsibility. We understand that the media has historically been used as a tool of colonization and that we, as Indigenous Peoples’, have suffered from inaccurate and incomplete representations of history.
Presently we are concerned with the ways in which media is perpetuating globalization. We know that no matter how complex or multi-layered, globalization has always meant the loss of language, cultures, traditional foods, values, ways of living, and knowledge. It has also meant increased migration, urbanization, poverty and the homogenization of culture.
For many indigenous peoples today, the communication of our traditional knowledge is threatened by competition from “high-tech media monopolies” and “transnational media conglomerates” which tempt our youth with high-tech imagery and technology and which promote non-indigenous values such as racism, classism, homophobia, and consumerism. This by product of globalization is limiting the ability of our elders to pass on traditional knowledge which promotes sustainable living with each other and the earth.


A. Oral History, Story Telling and Mentoring

Story Telling is one of the most powerful tools Indigenous Peoples’ have in the fight to preserve and protect traditional knowledge—and thereby their survival. It is a practical, yet symbolic act in which “knowledge and experience” is passed from an older generation to a younger one. In telling their stories, elders are able to share with youth the many lessons they have learned simply from living. In turn, youth are provided with rich and complex stories that often provide them with ways to ensure their cultural identity and survival.

Today, there are many Indigenous Organizations who promote mentoring as a means of preserving and protecting traditional knowledge. In these organizations, Indigenous Youth are encouraged to work closely with elders and to develop relationships in which they are able to develop advocacy skills based on the cultural and spiritual values which they are learning from elders. These mentoring relationships are based on mutual respect and the responsibility to share in the preserving and protecting of Indigenous Peoples.  
Below we have listed several examples of organizations and projects which were developed as a means of preserving traditional knowledge and also providing Indigenous Youth with the opportunities and skills necessary to assume the leadership positions of tomorrow.
It is the hope of these organizations that by mentoring Indigenous Youth they will assist in the creation of young leaders who will apply their knowledge by actively working to improve the situations of Indigenous Peoples in their home communities, while also placing their domestic struggle within the context of international Indigenous struggles and victories.

A. Article 3-Youth Media Project
Our project is based on the belief:

That youth can learn effective advocacy and organizing skills to help promote: Indigenous Peoples’ Human Rights, Land Rights, Treaty Rights, Environmental Justice, Cultural Rights, Health Rights and Education.

We believe that we must provide opportunities for Indigenous Youth to become involved as concerned young people and future leaders. We believe that learning the struggles and victories from elders is an important part of becoming an activist and advocate for your communities.

Our project is about story telling:

We provide the tools, training and mentorship to help Indigenous youth create media projects which present the stories, histories, and personal and political statements of our Indigenous Elders in documentary format. We are dedicated to preserving their experiences so that these voices may be heard by generations to come.

Our Project Creates Oral Histories:

The oral history interview provides a new technique for validating and filling in the gaps in the written historical record, or, can be the only record when no written documentation exists. Oral history interviews provide social and cultural information not available elsewhere. Oral history helps to personalize history. Written records often do not tell us much about a person or an event. They often do not tell researchers much about peoples’ everyday lives, what guided peoples’ decisions, why people made the choices they made, who people voted for and why, what people believed in and why, or what contribution an individual made to society. These are all questions oral history can help to answer.

We believe that traditional knowledge is a way of life and that as Indigenous Peoples’ we must maintain its continuity for our survival.

B. Indigenous Environmental Network-Youth Program

The IEN Youth Program formed in 2000, out of the need to involve more Native youth in the Environmental Justice movement. Since the beginning of IEN youth have been involved. The Circle of Indigenous Youth was created as a youth network. This network elected two young people to sit on the National Council of IEN. They also formed a national Youth Committee. As time went on the youth involved moved on and did other things. One of the youth-Bineshi Albert who has continued to sit on the National Council of IEN, and Staff members of IEN; who together advocated and fundraised to hire a Youth Organizer to begin developing a national plan of action and program for Native youth.

In April of 2000, a youth organizer was hired to begin this task. In the first year of the Youth Program a national Youth Committee was again formed with youth from each of the National Council organizations. These youth worked on developing the concept for what the Youth Program should look like. Also a youth survey was done at the Annual Protecting Mother Earth Conference in Brownsville, TX. This survey identified youth needs and input into IEN Youth Program. After a year the Youth Committee, Youth Advisory Committee and Youth Organizer finished the concept of the Youth Program.

The main areas that youth felt needed to be worked on are:



To meet these needs we are working to provide resources such as:

•A youth list-serve

•A network for youth organizations and organizers
•Updates on resources, funding, and training opportunities
•IEN Youth Trainings (under development)
•Access to human resources such as our veteran activists and organizers for support
•Opportunities to engage and learn more in the national and international work of IEN

Our Goals of the Youth Program are to:

•Develop a self-sustaining program

•Synchronies Indigenous Youth
•Effect activism/organizing for change thru a global network of Indigenous Peoples (youth)
•Incorporate traditional teachings & values
•Promote acquisition of land and sustainable land use
•Use communications tools effectively such as: newsletter, web-site, and information

C. Seeds for Survival

”Seeds for Survival” is a dynamic First Nations youth-driven, focused and committed project aimed at increasing food sovereignty and security of local indigenous food systems.

”Seeds” strives to create and maintain a network for food sovereignty and security from a First Nations Youth perspective while promoting culturally relevant educational experiences through training, apprenticeships and mentoring.

For the movement within the movement by planting sovereignty one seed at a time, was a conception that had arisen out of the need to secure and maintain adequate, healthy relationships with our indigenous food systems.

”Seeds for Survival” is based on consultation with elders, mentors and traditional land users. “Seeds” uses a vision and definition of “Food Sovereignty” which was developed by more than 200 delegates from peasant and indigenous organizations from 60 countries. These peoples met in Havana, Cuba at the World Forum on Food Sovereignty, September 2001.

D. Fourth World Rising

Fourth World Rising is a project that is currently being developed. The goal of this project is to provide Indigenous Youth with a significant mentoring experience which will help them to acquire and develop the skills necessary to have meaningful and effective participation in the International Indigenous Movement. Participants in this program will attend meetings such as the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, USA as well as the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva, Switzerland. Youth will be trained in leadership and advocacy skills as well as in UN systems work.

A core element of this program is the belief that the Youth selected will return to their local communities and develop activities which will allow them to share what they have learned with their peers. Fourth World Rising believes that an essential part of maintaining the continuity and vibrancy of the International Indigenous Movement is the ability to assist youth with connecting their local experiences with the struggles of other Indigenous Peoples around the world.

The following column is excerpted from the statement by Elisabeth Garrett (Cherokee), Indigenous Youth Representative, International Indian Treaty Council, at the High Level panel, United Nations Headquarters, May 12, 2003:

Indigenous youth and children are members of families and indigenous nations, and are contributors to the wellness and perpetuation of our cultures and life ways. They are an integral part of the indigenous peoples. Therefore the rights of indigenous youth and children are safeguarded when the rights of all indigenous peoples are recognized and upheld.

However, intergenerational trauma, and the inevitable inheritance of the state of the world and our Mother Earth are two ways in which indigenous youth are vulnerable and call for special attention. Here are two more reasons: lack of access to decision-making, and lack of representation in full and effective participation at all levels in matters relating to indigenous youth - essentially all matters. Indigenous youth and children disproportionately bear the burden of social and environmental sickness and destruction caused by war, poverty, unsustainable development and colonization. Indigenous youth also lack access to recourses to mobilize and participate, further limiting meaningful input into these processes which have direct impact on their lives and lands. And lastly, amongst many indigenous peoples, youth and children comprise a large percent of the community. These are some of the reasons why indigenous youth and children require special attention in policy making and within participatory processes.

In closing, I would say that there is a lot of work to be done and that the future leaders of our peoples have set out very clear recommendations and have mobilized to ask for support in very concrete ways. At the risk of being repetitive I will summarize the extensive recommendations made by indigenous youth globally. For their promotion and protection, indigenous youth require capacity building and the coordination of indigenous youth efforts at building political will, sharing lessons learned and best practices. We ask for full and effective participation at all levels of planning, implementation and evaluation. And finally, as a prerequisite for survival and continued development, the recognition of indigenous peoples’ right as peoples to self determination, through the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in its current text without delay.

I give thanks for the advancements and efforts, sacrifice and scars, healing and life-giving spirit that comes to us from our ancestors, and from those who have come before us, the youth.

All my relations - Elisabeth Garrett

For many of us it is difficult to envision the process of becoming and activist. Are there certain classes we should take? Should we have certain internships? Do we need to go to college? How do we acquire the skills we need? The answer is simple; there is no “one correct way”. Rather, enter activism in different ways. The stories below are meant to inspire you. Here, Indigenous Youth talk about how they got involved in the movement. As you will see, everyone had a different experience. Yet, all of these people are committed to creating a more socially just world.
Alyssa Burhans

Heather Milton Lightening

Stan Williams

Clayton Thomas-Muller

Amalia Anderson

Lisa Garret


A. Internet

International Youth Parliament
Black Mesa Water Coalition
Redwire Magazine
Tebtebba Foundation
Fourth World Rising
Indigenous Environmental Network
International Indian Treaty Council
International Indigenous Youth Conference

First Peoples Worldwide

Centre for World Indigenous Studies

World Summit on the Information Society

Media Justice

Seeds for Survival

Community Food Security Coalition

B. Articles from the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
Article 6.

No Genocide Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and to full guarantees against genocide or any other act of violence, including the removal of indigenous children from their families and communities under any pretext.
Article 14.

Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future

generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems

and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places

and persons.
States shall take effective measures, especially whenever any right of indigenous

peoples may be affected, to ensure this right and to ensure that they can understand

and be understood in political, legal and administrative proceedings where necessary

through the provision of interpretation or by other appropriate means;

Article 25.

Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual

and material relationship with the lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other

resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and to

uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard;


Seventh Generation, Page


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