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The Four Worlds International Institute for Human and Community Development
347 Fairmont Boulevard
Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 7J8 Canada
Tele: 403-320-7144 Fax: 403-329-8383


Four Worlds International Institute for Human and Community Development was born out of the intense deliberations and prayers of a gathering of native elders and community leaders that was held on the Blood Indian Reservation on the high plains of Alberta in the last week of December 1982. Forty distinguished representatives of North American tribes met in search of a solution to the social devastation brought on by, alcohol, poverty and an increasing sense of powerlessness that was sweeping across tribal communities.

From that meeting emerged a vision of hope, and a plan to restore tribal communities to health and strength. That plan was framed by four strategic foundation principles.

1. Development Comes From Within - others may help and assist, but the driving force for change, healing, learning, growth and progress must come from within the communities themselves.

2. No Vision, No Development - The people need to be able to visualize health and well being for themselves in order to be able to create it in their world.

3. Individual and Community Transformations Must Go Hand In Hand - The healing, learning and growth of individuals, and the transformations of community relationships and conditions are mutually interdependent.

4. Wholistic Learning is the Key to Deep and Lasting Change - People need to learn how to live themselves in ways that lead to life rather than to death. Learning is at the very heart of sustainable human change processes and human beings are multi-dimensional learning beings, physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and volitionally.

These strategic principles articulated by the Elders became the primary guiding source of action for The Four Worlds International Institute for Human and Community Development. Four Worlds was created as an instrument to implement the vision of the Elders for restoring health, first to tribal communities, and then to the whole world.

It is vital to add that what these indigenous Elders saw as a strategy for action was based on an incredibly powerful and unlimited spiritual and cultural knowledge system. That world-view believes without a doubt that:

(1.)  the spiritual and material aspects of life are inseparable and interdependent;

(2.)  that indeed everything is related to everything in this universe;

(3.)  that healing ourselves, our communities, our nations and mother earth depends, utterly on our capacity to understand our own selves - who we are as human beings and how we grow and develop as individuals and communities;

(4.)  and that human beings have within them as a gift of the Creator, the power to transform and heal the world.

Based on these principles and strategies, Four Worlds has initiated a wide variety of projects, programs and prototype models, first in support of tribal community healing and development, and later in other communities and nations around the world.

Some of these initiatives have included youth development, women’s development, school curriculum design and development, community governance training, community healing, community development training, and an Elderhealth program.

Over the eighteen years of Four World’s existence, the program has generated some five million dollars of funding from various agencies of government, private foundations and through the sales of Four Worlds curriculum materials.


(1.) The Four Worlds International Institute of Indigenous Sciences

The International Institute of Indigenous Science is designed to preserve, recover and promote Indigenous peoples’ knowledge throughout the world. It consists of an International Centre, that will eventually include a network of centres in each of the continents and islands of Mother Earth.

The Activities of the Institute

I. Research - Researching Indigenous knowledge systems, in order to recover, renew and reclaim and preserve what was known in the past (wisdom, knowledge and technologies), and to bring it to bear on the realities of life facing Indigenous people and the rest of humanity into the twenty-first century.

II. Education and Training - Promoting the learning that is needed for sustainable development related to many fields of Indigenous communities.

III. Development Action - Engaging in a broad range of development related initiative in life sustaining fields such as health, agriculture, education and economic development in partnership with indigenous communities, that lead to and demonstrate sustainable pathways of living.

IV. Bridging - Bridging 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, as well as, connecting Indigenous peoples with one another.

II. The Four Worlds College of Human and
Community Development

Education toward sustainable living into the twenty first century requires the emergence of entirely new educational forms. The College has grown out of three decades of on-the-ground work in building the capacity of Indigenous (and other) communities to create sustainable solutions to their own development challenges.

After working with communities for many years to convince universities and colleges to provide the kind of programs communities really need, (the academic "experts" always think they know best what the people "really" need), Four Worlds has initiated an approach to higher education that is actually rooted in community healing and development processes.

The Development Leadership Program

Launched in 1998 this program was over four years in development. With generous support of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, a process of program development and curriculum design was carried out in partnership with selected tribal communities.

This program’s features are:

1. Community Based - the primary classroom is the community. It is a field-based (rather than campus based) program.

2. Practical Orientation - students are front-line workers, community leaders and volunteers. The on-the-ground community healing and development processes are the primary focus of the curriculum.

3. Accredited - Indigenous (and other developing) communities have been workshopped and round tabled to death. People want formal accreditation for their learning and a level of discipline and rigor that will enable them to actually meet the challenges they face. The Four Worlds program will be fully accredited at the certificate, bachelor, masters and Ph.D. levels.

4. Inter-Disciplinary - All the human sciences and applied disciplines (such as anthropology, sociology, economics, health promotion, education, etc.) converge in the actual work of promoting human and community development. The leadership program takes an integrative, ecological approach, making use of research, models, theories and tools from many disciplines.

5. Culturally Appropriate - The Four Worlds College approaches teaching and learning from within the cultural framework, learning styles, and value orientations of the learners.

6. Value Driven - The Four Worlds College is founded on the belief that education is not neutral. We believe that learning for sustainable living into the twenty first century must be connected to processes of spiritual and moral renewal, oriented to developing healthy relationships between human beings and the natural world and must be connected in a hands-on-way with real life human struggles for personal, organizational, community and global well being.

III. The Four Worlds Elderhealth Program

"Elderhealth" was developed in response to a crisis in tribal communities created by the untimely death of many native elders. Not only did these deaths generate great sadness at the loss of dearly loved relatives, but it also meant that greatly needed knowledge and wisdom was rapidly disappearing, just when tribal communities were beginning to seriously address their social and economic challenges.

Through Four Worlds discretionary funds and with the generous support of the Canadian Government (Health Canada), Four Worlds was able to undertake a seven year research and development process in partnership with native elders and communities.

The result is a "comprehensive elder wellness and leadership development program" that addresses the physical emotional, mental and spiritual health of elders, but also builds the support systems at the family and community level to sustain the wellness gains made through participation in the program.

The results of this program have seemed almost miraculous: the severity of diabetes (type B - a big killer in tribal communities) was significantly reduced in many cases, physical stamina and strength was greatly improved (from walks around the room to walks of three to five miles). Beyond these benefits, relatively inactive elders became active agents of health promotion in their families and communities.

The most exciting aspect of this program is to see the vitality, sense of purpose and energy return to the elders. The program is simple, but comprehensive. It addresses nutrition, exercise, mental health, spiritual well-being and leadership skills. A carefully crafted curriculum guide makes program implementations relatively easy for any community willing to invest modest amounts of money and human energy into preserving a precious living resource: the elders.

IV. The Four Worlds Centre for Development Learning

The Four Worlds Centre for Development Learning (located in Calgary, Canada) is an educational research and development arm of the Four Worlds International Institute. Under the direction and coordination of the Four Worlds International Institute for Human and Community Development, the Centre concentrates on working directly with communities, organizations, agencies and the governments that serve them to solve critical social and economic problems.

This work entails a continuous search of literature and global experiences in the development and testing of viable new models and strategies.

The very core of the Centre’s work is the continuous refining of basic principles, models and tools for sustainable human and community transformation.

Some of the ways the Centre carries on its’ education function includes assisting The Four Worlds International Institute and other organizations and communities in the development of learning materials, (books, videos, inter-active media, etc.), through the facilitation of training events and through long term mentoring relationships with community leaders and key agency personnel.


In 1995, a bold new initiative was undertaken by Phil Lane, Jr., International Coordinator of Four Worlds International Institute to create a profitable business initiative to fund the humanitarian work of The Four Worlds International Institute for Human and Community Development and other related initiatives. This community based, sustainable economic enterprise is called Four Directions International.

Guided and inspired by the wholistic principles, processes, values and prophecies shared over the years by the wise elders and teachers of many tribes and nations, Four Directions International is dedicated to:

1. The development and marketing of alternative, non-polluting energy sources that will replace fossil fuels, so these limited natural resources may be utilized for producing recyclable building materials and for other non-polluting purposes.

2. The development and marketing of information technology and telecommunications systems and educational technologies and approaches that will empower and sustain widespread human and community development efforts in Indigenous communities.

3. The development and marketing of technology and Indigenous and cultural approaches that will sustain a pollution free environment.

4. The development and marketing of natural herbal medicines, healthy foods and healing and ecotourism centers that support and empower human wellness and respect for the natural environment.

5. The research, development and marketing of investment opportunities and approaches in Indigenous communities that empower long-range human and community development initiatives.

6. The development and marketing of economic enterprises developed and staffed by young people for young people.

7. The development of international economic and social development projects, partnerships and trade agreements that will sustain long-range human and community development initiatives in North American Indigenous societies and Indigenous communities around the world.

For more information on Four Directions International click here

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