What is the 7th Generation principle and why do you need to know about it?

hillsideWhenever I mention the 7th Generation principle to most people, they think I’m talking about laundry detergent.

I’m always surprised that more people don’t know the origin of the term, so I felt it deserved a post of its own.

The “7th generation” principle taught by Native Americans says that in every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendents seven generations into the future.  So that the pristine sky, field and mountains in this photo will still be here for them to enjoy.

A generation is generally considered to be 25 years, so that’s 175 years.

It is clearly not embraced by most governments and corporations in the world today. I mean, when was the last time any of us thought about who’s coming along seven generations from now?

The 7th generation principal was so important to Native American cultures that it was codified in the Iroquois Great Law of Peace. To my knowledge, all Native American and indigenous tribes throughout the world embrace this teaching.

Those of us descended from the European culture have generally not given it a second thought.

Long before environmentalists got us thinking about “carbon footprints” and “sustainability,” indigenous peoples lived in balance with the world around them.

It’s even defined in their language:

Mitakuye oyasin [Lakota]

Nogomaq [Algonquian]

Gakina-awiiya [Anishinaabe]

Ea Nigada Qusdi Idadadvhn [Cherokee]

All these terms mean, “we are all related to, and respect, everything in life.”

Native American tribes didn’t even have a word for “ecology” – respect for the earth was so ingrained in their lifestyle that one word would be too limiting.

The earliest recording of the 7th Generation principle dates back to the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois Confederacy created in the 12th Century. When our Founding Fathers looked for examples of effective government and human liberty upon which to model a Constitution to unite the thirteen colonies, they found it in the government of the Iroquois Nation, which, at that point, had stood for hundreds of years.

Ironically, in drafting our constitution, our founders left out one of the essential principles of the Great Law of Peace: the 7th Generation principle.

It is ironic, because it is the heart of this very successful model of government – the Iroquois Great Law of Peace has today stood for 1,000 years.

It is the omission of the 7th Generation principle and the role of women in government that led Native Americans to say that, the U.S. copied the Great Law of Peace but didn’t really understand it.

How to live by the 7th Generation principle

To live by this principle, one would ask, prior to any undertaking, how it will affect the land, water, air, animals, birds, plants and the future for our children seven generations into the future?

How does it apply to you?

Think about where you build a house, what kind of car you drive.

Do you throw out or recycle?

What kind of impact are you making on the earth?

What kind of message are you giving your children? Teach them by example.

Here are some specifics:

1. Recycle.

2. Spay/neuter your pets. The world doesn’t need more homeless dogs and cats; the shelters are overflowing.

3. If you want a pet, please adopt from a shelter.

4. Use organic cleaning products [yes, that would include the 7th Generation brand – that’s where they got the name!] Better yet, make your own. You’d be amazed at what you can do with vinegar and baking soda. Google it.

5. Use cloth diapers or a diaper service, not pampers. The plastic in disposable diapers takes 500 years to break down in a landfill.

6. Buy organic. Yes, organic produce may cost more, but wouldn’t you rather pay the farmer instead of the hospital?

7. Ban plastic from your home; bring your own canvas bags to the supermarket. You can keep them in your car so they’re always handy.

8. Don’t buy “disposable” anything, but if you must, buy paper rather than plastic and plastic rather than Styrofoam, which isn’t recyclable and depletes the ozone layer.

9. Don’t use the dryer – dry your clothes in the sun. There’s nothing like it.

10. Use phosphate-free laundry and dish soap.

11. Use hand soap that comes in bars; plastic bottles of soap are… plastic!

12. Use washable rags, not paper towels, to clean up. What better use for old clothes too stained to wear any more?

13. Buy only energy efficient appliances.

14. Plug appliances into power strips and turn them off at night. Most appliances that use electrical power are consuming electricity even when turned off.

15. Shop locally. The travel time, gas and mileage it takes for products to get to big box stores, or for you to get to that store, undermines their savings.

16. Use the train instead of flying for trips under 300 miles.

17. Let your next car be a hybrid or electric. [If you already have one, I salute you!]

18. Compost. It’s a joy to watch the miracle of rotten food turned into glorious soil!

19. Fix things that break, if you can, rather than replacing them.

20. Pull weeds instead of using herbicides. Get your hands in Mother Earth. Again, there’s nothing like it!

21. Use organic fertilizers.

22. Xeriscape: plant things that don’t need supplemental water. That means they are native to your area and have adapted to however much rainfall you normally get.

23. Vote for candidates who commit to protecting the earth.

24. Speak up! Tell your political representatives how you feel about issues: Contact Congress, Senate, and the White House.

25. Voice your concerns to merchants about excess packaging and use of plastics.

Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

Always ask: Will the decisions we make today be beneficial for our descendants?

Remember that everything we do matters. If we live our lives from that idea, we will leave the world a better place.

For a deeper understanding of this principle, watch this brilliant TED talk on “Becoming Great Ancestors.” Just 16 minutes long. Make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy!

Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller “The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman.” She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes and blog at www.MollyLarkin.com
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28 Comments

  1. Corey

    Thank you again for an amazing most Molly!

    -Corey-

    • Molly Larkin

      You’re welcome. So glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Karen

    Very interesting. Oh that we had adopted the whole Law of Peace. Its not to late, we can do it individually, and pass it on.
    Thanks again.
    Karen

    • Molly Larkin

      You make a good point, Karen. It’s not too late to do it individually and pass it on! Thank you for your comment.

  3. Roberta

    Thank you for sharing this. I am researching the 7th Generation Principle and your blog post has been the most informative so far. I was introduced to it by a personal advisor and confidante in the context of abuse as it exists in families. She said that if a person makes a decision to change the course of how a family has existed in the past, then that decision affects the next 7 generations. Meaning, if a person decides to break the cycle of abuse in a family, then that decision will carry on for the next 7 generations. Obviously this is much different than deciding to live a more sustainable life. I am curious to get your thoughts on this…? Either way, I think it is a beautiful principle and I fully intend to incorporate it into my life. Thanks again.

    • Molly Larkin

      You are most welcome, Roberta. I’m happy you found this post informative. I absolutely agree with your advisor. There is scientific evidence that we carry the DNA of our ancestors. As an energy healing practitioner, I have found that we also carry their emotions. I know scientists may not have caught up to this yet, but this is my experience. Knowing we can heal our DNA in the present [scientific fact], tells me that we will pass on healed DNA to those coming after us. We can heal the past, which affects our present and, therefore, our future.

  4. Gangolf Neubach

    Thank you Molly from Germany!
    I wounder why this important principle is so unknown!
    I will do the best to carry it out to europe!
    Thanks again! Gangolf

    • Molly Larkin

      You are welcome, Gangolf. Thank you for doing what you can to carry these teaching on in Europe!

  5. Alphonse

    Yes, Yes, Yes, This is a very good article. And yes I believe that we can heal the past. That we are linked to the past and the future. A bridge. A great responsiblity. This aligns with certain Buddhist principles. Thank you for posting. Peace

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you for your beautiful words!

  6. Ellie H

    I am pleased this came up on a google search. Have known of the principle a long time and needed a good fast explanation to send out on Twitter (to Jim Carrey and the Pontifex). Its all our responsibility to live this way and pull our $$ away from those who do not, even while trying to teach them and showing them compassion.
    FYI I sent your link in my response to Carrey’s 8.9.15 post re pope. He shows one of his cool paintings with a quote from Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, i believe. @elhites to~~~ @JimCarrey @Pontifex #PrecautionaryPrinciple & #7thGenerationPrinciple urgently needed in all human activity-NOW http://www.mollylarkin.com/what-is-the-7th-generation-principle-and-why-do-you-need-to-know-about-it-3/

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you so much, Ellie, for forwarding this message. I believe the future of our planet depends on embracing this principal. Keep up the good work!

  7. Kat Butler

    Good research helped me with a science paper!

    • Molly Larkin

      Glad to hear it! 😊

  8. […] What do we mean by #wiseways? Simply this: It’s our platform to give people of every generation a voice and the means to express themselves toward a world we want to live in. #wiseways is a “generative” campaign for expressing positive and constructive ideas by “We the People” for improving our communities. Together, we aim to create the world we want to live in based on the sustainable Native American principle of the 7th generation. […]

  9. loretta odom

    Thank you ms. Larkin. Its funny because I have unknowingly lived under these principles. I even never drove before. We are a fifth generation family. My last name is Odom. My father’s name is Henry Clay Odom who served in the army; we have a lot of women in our family also a good amount of males in our family as well. But they don’t outnumber the women. We have a considerably large family and my mom is 86 years old so I understand why it is critical to leave a good footprint in the world we live in.

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you, Loretta.

  10. Luke

    Here is another suggestion. Take 5 minute showers instead of 15 minute showers. Some places are in a drought, like the West Coast. You have really good ideas though. Thanks, Luke

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you, Luke. Good point!

  11. Andrew

    Hello. I have one small correction to offer. The Ojibwe people’s word for their language is spelled “Anishinaabe”, with two “a’s” before the “be”.

    cited for reference: Ojibwe White Earth Reservation website, webpage discussing efforts to preserve their language from extinction.

    Also, with respect, I think the key response one might encourage in us European-descended ‘guests’ of the Native Nations from whom the US has forcefully and deceptively taken livelihood, territory and resources is respect for these “Mother nations”.

    It’s all well and good to manage our environmental footprint by doing little things differently. However, in the face of the monstrous history of the colonial powers’ systematic, continuing slaughter, subjugation and exploitation of the peoples, the flora and fauna and the other resources of Turtle Island, our real work is doing anything and everything we can to dismantle the neo-Colonial process defining European-Native Nations relationships so these peoples might restore themselves to their rightful places in the world as they know it.

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you. I have corrected the spelling of Anishinaabe. You make very good points; I hope it doesn’t take too long to get there!

  12. Matt

    All great ideas. Needs one more;

    Try Going vegan!! Massively Saves on virtually all resources, great for the body, and reduces collective suffering. It may not have been necessary for the Natives, but there are a lot more of us humans now and things have changed. Watch Cowspiracy if you want to change your perspective forever.

    Thanks for reading!!
    Namaste and such

    • Molly Larkin

      I heartily agree. I have been vegan for a couple of years now, for reasons of health and compassion. There are a lot of great documentaries out there about our corrupt food system and the needless animal suffering it causes, but I was not familiar with Cowspiracy. i’ll look for it. Thank you!

  13. […] Native Iroquois and other Native American tribes live by a principle: in all decisions, we should consider the effects on seven generations of descendants. This […]

  14. Angela Feist

    Dear Molly,
    Thank you for this great article! I love it. I hope to see our country turn to our Native people for guidance on how we can live in harmony with Nature. Science is very close to proving that traumas are passed on genetically. I know it’s true but for those who need science this is great!!!
    Much love to you.
    http://discovermagazine.com/2013/may/13-grandmas-experiences-leave-epigenetic-mark-on-your-genes

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you, Angela, glad you liked it. And thank you for the article cite. I’m working on a post about inherited family traumas and this is one of the articles I looked at. You’ve given me a push to publish it sooner. 🙂

  15. Peter Koot

    This noble philosophy is very similar to the ancient African philosophy of Ubuntu <3

    • Molly Larkin

      Interesting! Yes, I have found that indigenous peoples throughout the world have similar teachings. Universal truths are truly universal. Thank you for your comment!

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