Seven generation sustainability
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Seven generation stewardship is a concept that urges the current generation of humans to live and work for the benefit of the seventh generation into the future. It originated with the Iroquois – Great Law of the Iroquois – which holds appropriate to think seven generations ahead (about 140 years into the future) and decide whether the decisions they make today would benefit their children seven generations into the future. It is frequently associated with the modern, popular concept of environmental stewardship or 'sustainability' but it is much broader in context (see the quotation below relative to "in ALL of your deliberations ...".
"In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine." This is an often repeated saying, however, despite a common belief, it is not contained in the Constitution of the Iroquois Nation.
Instead, the only passage mentioning the number seven talks about qualities that Iroquois leaders should have, while the end of the passage advises them to consider the welfare of future generations.
"We now do crown you with the sacred emblem of the deer's antlers, the emblem of your Lordship. You shall now become a mentor of the people of the Five Nations. The thickness of your skin shall be seven spans -- which is to say that you shall be proof against anger, offensive actions and criticism. [...] Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation."
Oren Lyons, Chief of the Onondaga Nation, writes: "We are looking ahead, as is one of the first mandates given us as chiefs, to make sure and to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come. ... What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?"
Peter Wood delves into criticism of the historicity of the concept in an article. In his limited research, he was not able to find convincing evidence that the Great Law in fact referenced 7 generations or that members of the Iroquois Confederacy practiced the concept.
- "Iroquois Constitution". www.indigenouspeople.net. Retrieved 2019-01-11.
- An Iroquois Perspective. Pp. 173, 174 in American Indian Environments: Ecological Issues in Native American History. Vecsey C, Venables RW (Editors). Syracuse University Press, New York.