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Seven Generation Planning

“As we make decisions today, we should consider the impact of our actions on our children's children to the Seventh Generation. This means we have a sacred and shared stake in improving the lives of our people and opening the gates of opportunity to all of them. I have great hope that the vision and policies of this Administration will continue to benefit all people seven generations from now.”

Dan Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture, 1997:
The concept of planning with the interests of the seventh future generation in mind can be traced to the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy of New York State. This concept has been adopted by other Indian tribes and organizations across the country. This concept is synonymous with sustainable development: Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Long-term planning for American Indians before European contact was relatively uncomplicated. Traditions and ways of life did not change much even after 150 years. With European contact, however, changes were rapid and dramatic. The American Indian chiefs and religious leaders were overwhelmed by the colonists and became powerless to protect the interests of future generations. As tribes slowly recover their culture and identity they are again planning for the seventh generation.

Long-term planning is a complicated process, because change continues to be rapid and dramatic. For this reason there is now a branch of science called Futures Studies. UH-Manoa has the oldest futures research institute in the world. The Institute assists in the development of visions, foresight, and strategic plans. It helps groups develop their own abilities to identify future trends and emerging issues, and to understand their potential impacts.

Experts in futures studies agree that planning for the seventh generation requires each generation to be fair and humble. Fairness means not imposing risks on future generations that we ourselves would not accept. Humility means that we would consider the quality of life of future generations as important as our quality of life.

American Indians not only believed in being fair and humble to future generations, but also to the earth and its plants and animals. The physical world was Mother, Brother and Sister. “With all things and in all things, we are relatives. (Sioux)”

Is it possible to plan for seven generations? The answer can be found in two Indian proverbs:
“Take only what you need and leave the land as you found it. (Arapaho)”
“Have a vision not clouded by fear. (Cherokee)”