The Bemidji Statement on Seventh Generation Guardianship was released July 6 during the 14th Protecting Mother Earth Conference, convened by the Indigenous Environmental Network in Bemidji, Minnesota. It combines the ancient wisdom of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) -- "The first mandate.... is to ensure that our decision- making is guided by consideration of the welfare and well being of the seventh generation to come." -- with the precautionary principle.
The Statement calls for new guardians and new guardian institutions to protect the future of us all.
The Statement evolved from a conversation that began in Alaska in December 2005 between Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), and the Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN).
During the winter months of 2005-2006, several handfuls of people from numerous places throughout North America came together at two different locations to create the Bemidji Statement on Seventh Generation Guardianship (the Bemidji Statement). While much has been written in the past about the Seventh Generation Principle, the Bemidji Statement is different in a couple of ways. First, it accommodates some elements from the protection of the Commons and the Precautionary Principle. Second, it goes beyond most other principles by explicitly assigning guardianship and responsibility for protecting the Seventh Generation of humanity that is yet to be born. But equally important, it assigns the same guardianship and responsibility to the current generations to protect and restore the intricate web of life that sustains us all, for the Seventh Generation to come.
The Statement is written with the intent of being able to adopt it at all levels of our society. It is also written to change the way we think about our future. From the family unit, through community, and institutions on community, the Statement can be adopted and applied. It is intended for individuals or small groups of individuals to take guardianship responsibility for one piece of the web of life and protect or restore that one piece for this and future generations. Examples of these web pieces could be as broad as the water or the birds or as specific as a certain pond or a certain type of fish. A family may choose to assume guardianship for the area immediately their home, a community may watch over a much larger area, a government or institution may stand guard over all within their jurisdiction. The important thing is that guardians who assume this responsibility learn everything they can about that which they have chosen, they assess and monitor the chosen piece of the web of life, restore it when necessary, and report the status of their responsibilities to other guardians.
From the smallest unit of society to the largest unit of government, we can protect, enhance, and restore the inheritance of the Seventh Generation to come. Consider becoming a Guardian in your community.
- Indigenous Environmental Network
The Bemidji Statement on Seventh Generation Guardianship
"The first mandate.... is to ensure that our decision-making is guided by consideration of the welfare and well being of the seventh generation to come."
Indigenous Peoples have learned over thousands of years to live in harmony with the land and the waters. It is our intent to survive and thrive on this planet for this and many generations to come. This survival depends on a living web of relationships in our communities and lands, among humans, and others. The many Indigenous Peoples and cultures from throughout the world are threatened by the disruption of these relationships.
The exploitation and industrialization of the land and water have altered the relationships that have sustained our Indigenous communities. These changes have accelerated in recent years. We are now experiencing the consequences of these actions with increased cancer and asthma rates, suicides, and reproductive disorders in humans, as well as increased hardships of hunting and of whaling. Places that we hold to be sacred have been repeatedly disturbed and destroyed. In animals and in nature we see changing migratory patterns, diseased fish, climate change, extinction of species, and much more.
Government agencies and others in charge of protecting the relationships between our people, the land, air, and water have repeatedly broken treaties and promises. In doing so, they have failed in their duty to uphold the tribal and the public trust. The many changes in these relationships have been well documented, but science remains inadequate for fully understanding their origins and essence. This scientific uncertainty has been misused to carry out economic, cultural, and political exploitation of the land and resources. Failure to recognize the complexity of these relationships will further impair the future health of our people and function of the environment.
We value our culture, knowledge, and skills. They are valuable and irreplaceable assets to all of humanity, and help to safe guard the world. The health and well being of our grandchildren are worth more than all the wealth that can be taken from these lands.
By returning to the collective empowerment and decision making that is part of our history, we are able to envision a future that will restore and protect the inheritance of this, and future generations. Therefore, we will designate Guardians for the Seventh Generation.
Who guards this web of life that nurtures and sustains us all?
Who watches out for the land, the sky, the fire, and the water?
Who watches out for our relatives that swim, fly, walk, or crawl?
Who watches out for the plants that are rooted in our Mother Earth?
Who watches out for the life-giving spirits that reside in the underworld?
Who tends the languages of the people and the land?
Who tends the children and the families?
Who tends the peacekeepers in our communities?
We tend the relationships.
We work to prevent harm.
We create the conditions for health and wholeness.
We teach the culture and we tell the stories.
We have the sacred right and obligation to protect the common wealth of our lands and the common health of our people and all our relations for this generation and seven generations to come. We are the Guardians for the Seventh Generation.
"As guardians of the wards over which they were appointed, the manitous [spirits] could withhold from hunters permission or opportunity to kill." -- Basil Johnston, The Manitous
Shawna Larson, Environmental Justice Coordinator, IEN/Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Anchorage, AK 99503 USA, Tel: (907) 222-1714, Email: shawna(at)akaction.org, Web: www.akaction.org and http://www.ienearth.org/toxins_enviro_health.html
Bob Shimek, Mining Campaign Organizer, Indigenous Environmental Network, PO Box 485, Bemidji, Minnesota 56619 USA, Tel: (218) 751-4867, Email: ienmining(at)igc.org, Web: www.ienearth.org