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The fundamental vision for the Four Worlds International Institute of Indigenous Sciences is rooted in the distinctive realities, needs, experience, knowledge and wisdom of the Indigenous peoples of the world. The mainstream academic and research institutions of today found in most countries of the world promote an Euro-American world view, and have unfortunately by passed the vast reservoir of useful local knowledge and science found within the distinctive cultures of the world's Indigenous peoples.

Some of the key features of the envisaged Four Worlds International Institute of Indigenous Sciences that distinguish it from the pan-global academic and research bodies follow:

1. A WHOLISTIC AND INTEGRATIVE APPROACH-The very nature and structure of the disciplines as embodied in Western science has fractionalized human intuitive understanding and integrative knowledge. Its quest for attaining ever more specialized knowledge and excellence within increasingly reduced and analyzed disciplines, has sacrificed the vital wisdom of knowing wholeness and mastering synthesis. In accord with the Indigenous world view, the Institute will assume an ecological and integrative perspective which sees human beings engaged in a complex interconnected web of relationships with the natural world, with each other, and with the socio-spiritual dimensions of life. This Indigenous world-view will provide integrative frameworks of values and schemes of thought through which distinct disciplines may be more effectively explored and defined without loosing sight of the critical relational whole of which they are a part.

2. RESEARCH WITH AN ORIENTATION TO SUSTAINABLE ACTION-The primary and secondary research to be conducted by the Institute will encompass:

The difference between dominant culture approaches to research and that of The Four Worlds International Institute of Indigenous Sciences is that the focus of the Institute's work will be on the recognition and promotion of sustainable life patterns within Indigenous communities, and in turn the sharing of those experiences around the world. All research and other activities will in some way be connected to on-the ground human and community based struggles to solve critical social, economic or technical problems, and to preserve and promote knowledge systems from which the most apropos and effective solutions spring.

3. PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH AND PARTNERSHIP METHODOLOGY-Indigenous knowledge lives and cannot be meaningfully separated from the day to day lives of grassroots Indigenous peoples. Therefore it is a methodological imperative that - insofar as is possible and practicable - Indigenous people at the community level be empowered to participate as co-researchers and full partners in all of the Institute's activities. From this partnership approach a two way flow of knowledge can be established, maintained and protected. As well, the vitality and relevancy of the Institute's activities will be ensured.

4.A COMMITMENT TO BRIDGE BETWEEN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE'S AND WESTERN TECHNO-SCIENCE SYSTEMS IN SEEKING A SUSTAINABLE WORLD -It is increasingly clear that Western techno-scientific approaches are not - in and of themselves - adequate to understanding and responding to the complex web of social, economic, political and environmental challenges the world is today facing. Thought leaders from many disciplines are increasingly looking to Indigenous peoples for new ways of approaching problems and for existing knowledge that may provide better answers. In turn, Indigenous communities are very open to taking the best of what other cultures, sciences and technologies have, and integrating them into effecting even more sustainable patterns of life. The Institute will serve a critical and historic role as both a catalyst for cooperation, and as bridge of understanding between these widely divergent worlds.


The activities of the Institute, at local, regional, and global levels will entail the following:

  1. RESEARCH To research and document Indigenous knowledge systems, in order to recover, renew, and reclaim what was known in the past - wisdom, knowledge and technologies - and to bring it to bear on the realities of life facing Indigenous peoples and the rest of humanity into the 21st century.
  2. EDUCATION AND TRAINING To promote the learning that is needed for sustainable development related to many fields of endeavor, both within and beyond Indigenous communities.
  3. DEVELOPMENT ACTION To engage in a broad range of development related initiatives (in life sustaining fields such as health, agriculture, education and sustainable economic development) in partnership with indigenous communities, that lead to and demonstrate sustainable pathways of living.
  4. BRIDGING To bridge between Indigenous people and the broader world community, such that their technologies, knowledge pools and integrative schemes of thought can inform the global struggle for a sustainable world, and to connect Indigenous peoples to each other.

INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS NOW RECOGNIZED-The prime prerequisite to fulfilling the vision and promise of truly sustainable human societies is the re-discovery and renewal of a distinctive set of values and assumptions about humanity, the family, community and Mother Earth that are known to nurture and not undermine the long term wellness of humankind and all other forms of life. Earth based Indigenous traditional societies shared a common world view and approach to life which accorded strict respect for and studied adherence to the social, spiritual and physical design as found in the natural creation. Extending from this basic wisdom of studied respect for the design and orders of creation, Indigenous culture based knowledge systems were developed over the millennia. These systematized knowledge systems still survive to varying degrees and are especially noted for their qualities of simplicity, functionality, integrative holism, adaptability and sustainability. Furthermore, such social and natural science systems sought to minimize waste and duplication, while maximizing individual reconciliation to society and societal reconciliation to the creation.

The world community is belatedly recognizing the urgency of ensuring the preservation, renewal and application of the culture based knowledge and science systems still maintained to varying degrees by Indigenous traditional societies. The range of natural, life sciences and practical disciplines employed and effectively integrated by the Indigenous peoples of the world includes:

THE FOUR WORLDS INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF INDIGENOUS SCIENCES-The Four Worlds International Institute of Indigenous Sciences has been conceived and designed to function as a "living institution" under the representative guidance of the Indigenous Peoples of the world. The International Institute will be dedicated to renewing the broad range of practical Indigenous life and development knowledge systems as found throughout the World. It will carry forward practical documentation, research and demonstration projects with a focus on rebuilding and reaffirming the wealth of practical knowledge and insights drawn from Indigenous peoples.

In accord with the universal tradition of cooperation and sharing, Indigenous peoples throughout the World and other interested peoples will be invited to learn from and contribute to the Institute and its activities. model, inspiration, and resource for the healing and renewal of the first peoples of Mother Earth and all peoples who are willing to acknowledge and respect the laws of life and of the natural world. In its formative years the Institute's principal emphases will be placed on the following areas:

  1. Family based childhood education;
  2. Human and community development;
  3. Natural soil regeneration, including polyculture agriculture and permaculture;
  4. Lifestyle based medicine and health regeneration as predicated on natural law;
  5. Environmental and natural resource management; and
  6. Sustainable trade and enterprise systems extending from the Indigenous knowledge and resource base, including culturally-based eco-tourism.
A key purpose of the International Institute' is to afford direct benefit to Indigenous peoples at the community level by affording a first-hand demonstration of and direct access to, a range of useful knowledge resources in accord with their practical cultures. A solid body of evidence suggests that this provision is greatly needed and holds significant potential as a means to help Indigenous peoples to mitigate - in accord with their own unique value system - the endemic poverty and social injustice that came as an aftermath of European colonization. Finally, the Institute will demonstrate to those Indigenous societies that have lost much of their own traditional knowledge and culture base, as well as to the Western dominant society and entire world community, the important and diverse range of practical knowledge to be found in the original cultures of the Indigenous peoples of Mother Earth.


  1. Identify, apply and evaluate valuable indigenous science and practice systems as a means of strengthening the general health, education,         socio-economic growth and development of the Indigenous peoples of the World.
  2. Research and design technically sound and culturally appropriate demonstration projects and programs utilizing the best elements of indigenous science systems (at times, judiciously combined with apropos complementary elements of Western science) in practical fields such as agriculture-horticulture, health, nutrition, education, forestry, aquaculture, natural resource management, and small enterprise development.
  3. Develop and house an Indigenous Sciences Documentation Resource Facility that will serve Indigenous peoples locally, internationally - and as well the broader World Community - in the gathering, analysis and dissemination of useful Indigenous life science data. This will include the development of a computer network system covering all known dimensions of Indigenous life sciences which will effectively reach to all parts of the globe.
  4. Develop practical educational approaches, tools and activities based on Indigenous values and sciences for potential use within Indigenous communities, and as appropriate the broader society. This will include hands-on apprenticeship programs in specific fields such as traditional botanical medicine, ethnoveterinary medicine, organic agriculture, human and community development, family life and parenting skills, and environmental management.
  5. Lay the foundation, general framework and direction for establishing the first Indigenous peoples managed international polytechnical institute, affording specialties in key Indigenous science areas.
  6. Encourage and facilitate cooperative collaboration and interaction with multiple Indigenous peoples and nations in the mutual development and testing of indigenous sciences in development projects and human service programming.
  7. Catalyze and support an inter-organizational and inter-regional sharing of perspectives, experiences and skills with respect to the incorporation of indigenous sciences in practical development activities, including potential collaboration between the Institute and prestigious Western-based R&D polytechnical institutions.
  8. Undertake policy analysis and advocacy that will contribute to the growing world-wide effort to improve the quality, effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of development efforts through ensuring a greater understanding of indigenous sciences, emphasizing their actual and potential roles in human, community and social development in all societies and nations.
TOWARD SELF-SUFFICIENCY - THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE'S MISSION RELATED INCOME-GENERATING ACTIVITIES- What follows is an outline on the International Institute's potential for attaining financial self-sufficiency, and ultimately serving as a prime source of financial and technical assistance to the Indigenous Peoples of the World as they seek to restore and or maintain their culture based knowledge and practice systems.

This initiative is being undertaken at a time of growing global awareness of the intrinsic as well as practical value of cultural diversity. This interest in other cultures and in the conservation of environmental and biological diversity has opened up new frontiers in markets for alternative products, such as those coming from Indigenous peoples who have a deeper wisdom of the natural world and its many life forms, and who as well hold many practical answers to fulfilling the social and spiritual needs of humanity. Indeed mainstream society is actively searching for practical answers to problems in many fields such as: health; psychiatry; diet; lifestyle and leisure activities; community development; social services; child development; education; energy; as well as issues to do with quality of the environment; biodiversity conservation; and sustainable, safe, and quality food production. Consequently, the potential for healthful economic development through rebuilding traditional knowledge and related economic activities is truly vast.

Without any question there are clear "markets" for Indigenous knowledge in all the above-mentioned fields including both the "public" and "private" sector economies. Potential markets can be developed and reached through a variety of means while the potential for books, videos, CD rom and films for documenting Indigenous knowledge has already been demonstrated. There is also latent demand, and potentially huge profits, for feature films based on Indigenous stories and epics. Another potential market is for Indigenous knowledge based educational materials and children'sí stories. Yet another relates to a vast reservoir of untapped pharmacological knowledge, resources and healing technologies, as well as, culturally-based eco-tourism.

According due respect to key socio-cultural and ethical marketing principles - including intellectual property rights - the International Institute of Indigenous Sciences will:

POSITIVE SOCIAL, SCIENTIFIC, AND POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS-The Four Worlds International Institute of Indigenous Sciences will be playing a significant role in affording the Indigenous peoples of the various World regions with a distinct and historic opportunity to restore, renew and enrich their own threatened knowledge traditions, complemented by those of relevance which have survived in the traditional cultures of Indigenous peoples in other world regions. It will demonstrate an advanced approach to actualizing their development goals that remains consonant with what is considered valuable in their own unique traditions as Indigenous peoples and communities. Such approaches are based on time tested and nature based principals that will not and cannot fail.

As the first institution of its kind under the direction of an international board consisting of Indigenous peoples, the International Institute will be in a position to more directly and credibly assist with the long term development goals of Indigenous peoples throughout the world. For example, the Institute will be able to provide continuing technical assistance to local Indigenous communities in developing and diversifying their agricultural and food production activities. Furthermore, the Institute will afford a unique channel of opportunity for Indigenous organizations - especially through their delegated representation on the Institute's Governing Board - to more effectively interact on a cooperative and practical basis with governmental, NGO, academic, and commercial interests world-wide.

Finally, the Four Worlds International Institute of Indigenous Sciences holds the potential to play a vital leadership role in placing Indigenous peoples themselves at the center stage in the rapidly emerging world-wide movement to protect, renew and re-employ practical culture based knowledge systems and wisdom in fulfilling the development potential of all human kind. Indeed, in the coming years it is envisaged that the unique resources and activities of the Institute will attract the attention of social, political, and thought leaders from around the world, thus affording the Institute with significant international support and recognition. As a unique global institution it will become widely recognized and appreciated as a world class leader in natural and life science based development research, sustainable socio-economic development, and environmental reform.

MOVING FROM A CONCEPT TO CONCRETE REALITY: STEPS ALREADY TAKEN -It is now widely recognized that the long term success of development support hinge largely on the degree to which local people participate, and their unique perspectives, insights, knowledge and institutions are accorded due acknowledgment and respect. "Culture in development" essentially means to respectfully build upon the way people live; their values, insights, and relationships to one another and to the natural world order; how they strive for survival; the techniques they use in natural resource management, agriculture and production; and the social organizations they choose in matters of housing, health, education, and community governance.

In 1992-93 our team undertook the first world-wide review on Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Development funded by a Western government led to the ensuing major report Culture Based Knowledge Systems in Development: Securing the Foundations for a Sustainable Future. This report documented the extent of interest in and involvement with local knowledge systems of multiple indigenous, development and research institutions world-wide. This historic assignment involved the acquisition and selected syntheses of a vast range of original and secondary applied research studies and papers germane to Indigenous knowledge systems; an extensive mailout of questionnaires to 570 selected organizations in all world regions; and field missions to all of the inhabited continents excepting Australia. Insofar as was practicable, representative Indigenous organizations and or people were consulted throughout the study. A cross sampling of key issues addressed in the report include:

Specific subjects addressed include: This seminal research provides a compelling case for the OECD development and development research communities to accord a high degree of priority to the place of indigenous life sciences and values in the processes of international development. Indeed, in recent years a wide range of significant events and activities suggest a rapid escalation in the now world-wide movement to research, conserve, and build upon local knowledge systems with particular emphases on important fields such as agriculture, medicine, and natural resource management. This has coincided with the recent global efforts to attain sustainable development in human societies. Even the major global gathering of the world's political nation states earlier in this decade at Rio's UNCED recognized the importance of Indigenous knowledge and sciences for sustainable development in at least 17 separate chapters of the Summit's Agenda 21 recommendations report.

Despite such positive expansion in international recognition, a vast reservoir of practical local knowledge still remains unknown and untapped. Much of this vital knowledge has been passed down over the centuries and millennia in oral traditions through the elders, and today thanks to the untoward influences of global "modernization" is for the most part being forgotten and ignored by the younger generations. It's thus not difficult to appreciate that this priceless legacy is under a very real threat of extinction in many parts of the world. Nor can it be ignored that much of this remaining threatened knowledge base holds great import to the future well being and survival of all human societies. Indeed, considerable work remains to be done to ensure that it becomes more widely recognized, decoded, and applied as a means to conserve natural ecosystems, and to save techno-industrial human societies from the pernicious side effects of unbridled "development".

In response to this major crises, it is now considered crucial that there be established A GLOBAL INDIGENOUS SCIENCES AND DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE, UNDER THE DIRECTION OF CAPABLE AND COMMITTED INDIGENOUS PEOPLE. Such an initiative will need to be implemented in a way that will progressively involve the meaningful collaboration and participation of Indigenous peoples, communities and their distinctive organizations throughout the Developing World regions, and as well in the "Developed Nations" of Eurasia; N. America and Australasia. Four Worlds International is now playing a world leadership role in spearheading the planning and groundwork for this historic undertaking.

As the first institution of its kind in the world the Four World's International Institute of Indigenous Sciences will hold the potential to play an historically significant role in bringing into prominence Indigenous peoples as the legitimate expositors and advocates of their own rich systems of traditional knowledge. Furthermore, it will serve to greatly strengthen the rapidly emerging world-wide movement to attain sustainable development for all of humankind.

WORK ALREADY UNDERTAKEN WITH INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES-In the recent fourteen year period Four Worlds International has been listening to and working directly with Indigenous peoples in North and South America, the Asia-Pacific region, and Africa. These activities have tended to be discrete project related activities and thus delimited by the boundaries normally found in project funding. Furthermore, there has been relatively little follow-up outside of North America. Ideally, follow-up is critical and should be able to address:

  1. Building upon the knowledge base and distinctive strengths of Indigenous populations;
  2. Fostering inter-community exchanges and support processes among Indigenous peoples;
  3. Building upon the capacity of Indigenous peoples to develop themselves and their communities; and
  4. Drawing upon the knowledge, experiences, and strengths of Indigenous peoples to address critical problems facing the entire human family, such as
    1. the environmental crises;
    2. the losing war against crop diseases and pests that is being waged through costly agribusiness technology methods; and
    3. the rapidly escalating crises of family breakdown and accompanying social diseases.
It should be noted however, that at least inside of North America a significant level of work in each of these four areas has already been achieved. As a result of this effort, there is today a strong network of very capable Indigenous peoples, including co-workers from other culture streams who can be accessed as a major resource in the expansion of this important and historic movement. In reality, the launching of the Four Worlds International Institute of Indigenous Sciences actually represents the birthing process - on a global level - of an embryo that has been quietly developing for more than a decade.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS -Although Four Worlds International is spearheading this initiative, it is doing so on a collaborative basis with Apikan International, which holds an outstanding track record in effecting economic development agreements and organizing trade conferences with Indigenous organizations and entrepreneurs in various world regions. Apikan's work has involved the continuing collaboration and support of the United Nations Development Program and the Canadian International Development Agency. As well, the World Council of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) is very enthusiastic about the goal of establishing such a Institute. The WCIP which represents constituent Indigenous peoples organizations in South, Central and North America, the Pacific (Pacific to be confirmed), and Eurasia, has agreed to provide collaborative support for the planned global Institute and its goals.

THIS PROPOSAL -What follows is a proposal for the critical first three years of the Institute's activities. The components of work to be undertaken during this time period are divided into two parallel activity streams, namely; 1.Regional Consultation and Program Development, 2. Capacity Building and Training, 3. Regional Consultation and Program Development.

1. REGIONAL CONSULTATION AND PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT -The Global Institute must have its roots in strong regional programs, in each of four primary regions. Consultation will be held and initial program development will begin related to the needs of the Indigenous peoples in each region. The four regions are: Meso and South America; Asia and the Pacific; Africa and the Mid East; North America. For each of these regions, lead country or Indigenous/tribal programs will be identified. These programs will all involve the following four dimensions of the International Institute Work.

  1. Basic applied research for sustainable development;
  2. Capacity building and training of Indigenous peoples;
  3. Connecting Indigenous people together for mutual cooperation and support;
  4. Linking Indigenous peoples for sustainable development.
In this proposal we will be requesting modest funding to cover the costs of coordination and technical support within each respective region. Based on the needs, aspirations and Indigenous resources that are present in the four regions, a global program will be woven together to provide support to all the regions and to serve as a connecting hub of a worldwide Indigenous network.

By the end of the first three years:

  1. The regional programs will be actively serving the needs of Indigenous peoples in those regions;
  2. A worldwide technical assistance and training program (i.e. both accredited and non-formal training) will be bringing concrete help to Indigenous peoples in the regions;
  3. A worldwide communications and exchange network will be up and running through which Indigenous people will be enabled to share their experience and knowledge with each other;
  4. Specific linkages will be established through which Indigenous expertise will be informing global deliberations on key issues such as the environment;
  5. The International Institute will establish a home base, and its core program activities will be well underway;
  6. A number of profit making ventures will be underway, in particular with Indigenous peoples to contribute to the maintenance and progressive expansion of the work of the Regional and International Institutes, (this would be in addition the primary socio-economic benefits the providers/producers would receive).
Initial travel to each of the four regions to conduct in-depth consultation with Indigenous leaders leading to the setup of respective regional programs out of which will evolve regional Indigenous Science Institutes. Through this process the distinctive needs of each of the regions will be determined. This process will set the specific program agenda for both the regional and International Institutes to be embodied into a five year work plan. More specifically, through these regional consultation meetings:
  1. Regional priorities and projects will be identified;
  2. Regional Indigenous Science Centers will be established in partnership with existing Indigenous groups;
  3. Specific needs for initial support and help form the International Institute will be defined; and
  4. An Indigenous (Regional) Advisory Council will be established.
Another important outcome of the international round of consultations will be the establishment of an International Advisory Council and the reaching of consensus on the program initiatives for the first five years of operation. The International Advisory Council will meet once each year in one of the regions to review and guide the International Institutes work. Regional Councils will also meet annually in their own regions.

This proposal includes a request for funding to support the entire consultation and planning process as described above.

2. EDUCATION AND TRAINING- Capacity building and training of sustainable development leaders within Indigenous communities has been universally identified as a critical need common to Indigenous people the world over. For this reason Four Worlds has been working with tribal communities and organizations in North America, as well as with several universities and colleges to develop an innovative capacity building and training program that would have the following features:

As a major component of the International Institute's Program, we will launch the Four Worlds College, and will begin tailoring specific programs to meet the needs of the regions. The College will provide another important forum (in addition to the international consultations) through which the four primary work areas of the International Institute will be considered in specific geographic contexts (such as the Andean Altiplano, the American Southwest, or South Pacific Island Nations).

This proposal is seeking funds to support the pilot launching of the College and of the Human and Community Development Leadership Program (for further details see annex A.)

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