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The wisdom of the 7th Generation Principle

Category : Blog · by Dec 23rd, 2022

“Bury the hatchet”. Have you heard this famous saying? Believe it or not, it’s based on an event which happened long ago in North America. This event led to the discovery of a formula or a recipe for creating & maintaining peace for centuries.

The story goes, over a millennia ago, before America was “America”, it was the land of the indigenous people. A powerful spirit called the Peacemaker led the 5 chiefs of the 5 opposing indigenous-American nations to come together to make a pact of peace. Even though they were sworn enemies amongst each other, the 5 chiefs along with their warriors all buried their hatchets & weapons of war below the tree trunks of a great pine tree. That tree is said to have been on the shores of Onondaga river, in today’s Upstate New York.

This “great tree of peace” became a symbol of the power of the Good Mind – and not physical force, as the protector of the people. And it was this event which gave birth to the 7th generation principle. We all come to know the term “bury the hatchet” today as a legacy.

First a backstory

It was mid-Feb this year, days before the Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine territory, I had a conversation with my Californian friend, Vincent, about the potential war. I was curious about what he thought was going to happen as he was a veteran from the start of the Cold War, having been stationed in West Berlin as a soldier at the end of WWII.

He looked at me intensely and replied ”I honestly don’t know. But if they do invade, it will have a generational negative impact on both countries, and probably to the world.”

Then he shared with me the teachings of 7th generation concept which was eye-opening. The next day Vincent sent me a link to website with a photo of a single painting (www.Indigenousvalues.org). It was a great reference to learn about the principle and values of leadership from ancient wisdom.

This painting is by Mr. Oren Lyons, the Faith keeper & leader of the Haudenosaunee (how-de-know-sou-nee) Confederacy tells the story with symbolism from top to bottom.

On top of the tree sits an eagle who serves as an ever-vigilante protector of the Peace, and each animal depicted in the painting has a specific role to play in the ecosystem which benefits all. We as people are custodians of the land, we are able to use it while we are living while maintaining it to the best of our abilities for future generations.

belt flag
The flag representing the 6-nation confederacy has the Great Tree of Peace at the centre.

Originators of the Creator’s game

One of the gifts which came out of “burying the hatchet” was the absence of war. But a “little brother of war” or its European name of “lacrosse” was widely played across northern America for centuries and it continues to grow on a worldwide scale today.

A team sport recognised as the oldest surviving one in human history, it involves 2 teams with sticks & a single ball. Played with plenty of passion, the participants are taught to apply the right mind and respect for one another in a competitive setting.

Little brother of war painting
Litho by George Catlin (1832)

Lacrosse has been often called “The Creator’s game” or more commonly known as “The Medicine game” as it is deeply rooted in spiritualism & culture of the people’s belief in playing to express their appreciation to the creator (high above) for providing them life.

It is also commonly known to heal & help communities & keep the confederacy intact. Whenever there were inter-communal disputes flaring up, this game was played to decide on the outcome. It provided a good alternative to war and facilitated nations to keep on the path of the 7th generation principle.

Making the right decisions following the principle

The key principle of the 7th generation is simple: before any key decision is made, we need to think about the impact of 7 generations into the future. For example: when there was a drought in 1 nation within the confederacy, the remaining nations came together to help & support the struggling one, to help it get through the hard times by way of sharing food & resources to see the hard times through, together.

In 2008 Mr. Lyons gave a talk at the University of Arizona, and is quoted as saying: “If you don’t help them today, they end up here tomorrow”. There’s much wisdom in that short statement from the practical experience of the past; probably from centuries of famine, migration, fight for territory and wars. One can imagine before the time of the Confederacy & its founding principles, the incessant battles over natural resources; and the carnage & destruction which would’ve ensued as outcomes. Until the leaders realised that they were stuck in an endless loop of despair and looked for alternatives, a way out.

Not dissimilar to human history from other continents in Asia & Europe it probably had taken centuries or thousands of years of repeated suffering before coming to this realisation. One may say that too many of us are still suffering through the amnesia of lessons learnt long ago.

Applying it to the ecosystem

pic of turtle in water
M Swiet Productions/Getty Images

The 7th generation can be applied more broadly beyond our own human existence and to our surroundings. When we are harvesting plants & animals, (especially plants are great examples) for every plant we take, we leave 7 other plants, one for each generation.

The rationale is that it takes to time replenish and regenerate so we must think & act ahead accordingly to give it the time & foresight required. Yes, the indigenous people were practising environmental sustainability even way back then.

Why 7th? The power of visualisation

So why the 7th generation specifically and why not 6th or 8th? That is a good question. After scouring the web for days I wasn’t happy with any of the varied hypotheses on the number 7. So I’ve called Vincent and posed the same question. He said he wasn’t sure but had a good theory based on his own view of people’s reach in a lifetime.

He continued by saying “It’s usually about 6 generations that a person lives through – we’ve been affected by grandparents and our parents as children growing up. And we have our own lives to lead, so far that’s 3 generations. Then typically we’d live through seeing our own children and their children affecting & interacting in their lives as well. If we’re lucky, even great-grand kids, so it spans 6 generations on average.”

The 7th generation principle wants us to think just beyond our own realistic reach, our own lifetime of 6 generations. The 7th generation is symbolic to think into the future but not too distant into the future where it becomes too abstract. If it’s too abstract it debilitates making any plans or decisions towards it. If it’s something we can imagine as the near-distant future for visualisation, then we have a spark. It’s been proven in many studies done the power of visualisation that when people can first visualise something in their head first, it gives them confidence & strength to enact it in reality.

The 7th generation is symbolic to think into the future but not too distant into the future where it becomes too abstract.

This simple yet powerful specificity enables a much better call to action because we can visualise it better. In English at least, it’s common in our vernacular to say “I can certainly see it happening (or I can’t see it happening)” when we speak about the probability of something. Like anything in life, when we can visualise something first, everything falls into place.

The Principle in context to Ukraine & Russia

There’s one river of life, we’re in our canoe, you’re in your boat, and we’re ALL on the same river.

Oren Lyons, faithkeeper

Coming back to today’s current events in Ukraine (as of this writing, 9th month into the war): Imagine if Russia applied the Principle with Ukraine. Practising solidarity by sharing and giving instead of planting seeds of hate for generations to come. Imagine if these 2 ginormous countries built a bond/partnership to work towards resolving the climate crisis we have at large. Imagine the ripple effects that would have on the global theatre of politics and the generations from which to benefit. That will truly change the world in tens of millions of lives affected by a single pivot in mindset in decision-making.

I have to agree with the pundits who say the time’s run out on President Putin, Russia will have a new leader soon. One can imagine & hope for the new leader stepping up to utter these words echoed by Mr. Lyons recently in a talk: We’re all in it together. There’s one river of life, we’re in our canoe, you’re in your boat, and we’re ALL on the same river. What happens to one, happens to the other.“

Its wisdom can be unlocked

Just like the saying ‘burying the hatchet’ has endured the vestiges of time for more than a millennia, the principles which inspired it does have power EVEN STILL. Mainly because we as humans are essentially no different now to people from thousands of years ago. We all experience the joy of connectedness, feeling of belonging, and suffering from loss.

Regardless of how old it is, if our ancient people had come up with an antidote for chaos & destruction and have proven it to work for a thousand years, it’s best we take a very long look at it, as there’s real wisdom there. Otherwise, we’d be left with the long road of learning things the hard way, once again. THE CHOICE is ours to make.

Our guide to the Principle in modern day

In closing, I’d like to share with you the voice & thoughts of one of the practitioners of 7th gen-principle, Deyhahsanoondey. He is a professional athlete of modern-day lacrosse, also known by his Anglicised name of Lyle Thompson. As a key ambassador of the game, he is a respected star & celebrity in the lacrosse community of the world today.

Click HERE to view video

Resources & citation:

Video Interview with Vincent Acivila, Feb 18th, 2022:
Leader & artist in San Diego, California (USA) who had introduced me to the 7th Generation principle

Website on Indigenous Value (www.Indigenousvalues.org ):
Photo of the painting illustrating the Great Tree of Peace

Book “Little brother of war” by Thomas Vennum Jr.

Video recording of 2008’s Oren Lyons talk at the University of Arizona, Looking toward the 7th Generation

#7thgeneration #lacrosse #leadership #visualisation #greattreeofpeace #barcelonslacrosse #Haudenosaunee #orenlyons

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