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The Indigenous Circle of Life describes essential self-organizing interactive fractal* or meme* components upon which human life and society are built.  Indigenous societies have compassionately and carefully orchestrated this design around the world over millennia.  Fractal* Design implies structural patterns or elements across infinite micro to macro scales which repeat themselves.  We exist as individuals, families, extended families, communities, cities, regions, provinces, states, nations, confederations, continents, hemispheres and as a planet.  When design is self-organizing then the intelligence of each conscious part is actively contributing to the whole through its groupings at different levels.

Like DNA as a genetic code upon which plant and animal life builds its structures and channels energy, human society has codes or operating rules and ‘etiquette’ (French = ‘prescribed-behaviour’) of interaction based in consciousness, which keep us in equilibrium.  If we wish to understand sustainable development, change or break or wish to rebuild these codes, we should be aware of their impacts at various levels of our existence over time.  Time itself is infinite recreating its patterns across history recorded and unrecorded.  The Indigenous Circle of Life is a broader view of the Great Law of Peace (mutual-aid in multihome living & inclusive economy of the Production Societies) found in Indigenous societies around the world.  See also the following section A. HOME 9) MUTUAL-AID.

* Fractal is derived 1975, from Fr. fractal, from L. fractus "interrupted, irregular," lit. "broken," pp. of frangere "to break" (see fraction). Coined by French mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot in "Les Objets Fractals."  Fractals are components organized into patterns which repeat themselves at each level of human & nature's endeavour & activity.

Many important spatial patterns of Nature are either irregular or fragmented to such an extreme degree that ... classical geometry ... is hardly of any help in describing their form. ... I hope to show that it is possible in many cases to remedy this absence of geometric representation by using a family of shapes I propose to call fractals -- or fractal sets. [Mandelbrot, "Fractals," 1977]  


* A meme (/ˈmm/meem)[1] is "an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture."[2] A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.[3]

The word meme is a shortening (modeled on gene) of mimeme (from Ancient Greek μίμημα Greek pronunciation: [míːmɛːma] mīmēma, "imitated thing", from μιμεῖσθαι mimeisthai, "to imitate", from μῖμος mimos "mime")[4] and it was coined by the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene(1976)[1][5] as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catch-phrases, fashion, and the technology of building arches.[6]


Indigenous technologies engender sustainable development.



Partial list of indigenous economic and social practices drawn from First Nation experience & records across the Americas as well as world-wide.  These complementary and interactive practices form a culture of community.


Join Les Elements du design INDIGENE, Elemental Design, an inclusive organization committed to 'self-generation' of community resources. Contact First Nation peoples and learn more.

1. Council

The right of individuals in societies to call council for issues that affect them. Eg. Practice at meetings of asking, “Why have you come?” sets the agenda to include all participants.

Guidance to time-based accounting, participatory incorporation, organisational structuring, stakeholder caucusing & progressive share based ownership & representation.

2. Solidarity by Voluntary Simplicity

Community Leaders are distinguished for having the least possessions. Focus on life essentials: food, shelter, clothing, warmth, health and sharing (potlatch).

Personal Financial Management to empower life & vision realization.  Solidarity to enable-invest in all community members to work & share

3. Dialectic

‘Both Sides Now’ debate in conflict resolution. Individual right to challenge other individuals and officials to debate on actions, proposals & issues that affect them. Dialectic Right to be heard equally  with opponents. Recording (traditionally in the witness of circle) of debate.

‘Both Sides Now’ debate in conflict resolution. An easy equal-time recorded-dialogue procedure for individuals in adversarial or research relationships engenders dialectic group dynamics. First Nation models of Victim-Aggressor reconciliation.

4. Meeting in circle

Eye contact, group awareness, respect, equality, concertation and task sharing.

Aid for groups in describing and implementing circle process.

5. Economic democracy

Based in Societies and Caucuses (see numbers 8 and 9), it is a foundation for political democracy, economic inclusion and expression in decision-making. Indigenous ways provide open account-ing recognition for all contributions and thereby avoid the relegation of economics as a hidden hand in politics.

Time-based and human resource accounting techniques for business & organizations. Participatory structure, caucusing, progressive ownership, internal conflict resolution.  Participatory stakeholder grouping and structuring provides the means for communication & collaboration.

6. Political democracy

Integrating individual and collective family, extended family, neighborhood, community, region, province, state, nation, continent, hemisphere & inter-national council. Straw-vote indicators.

A system of family, community and planetary council with checks and balances for every level integrated as part of the whole. Based in democratic economy foundations.

7. College Progressive economic ownership

Youth apprentice to elder master and differential recognition in production societies for experience, investment, accomplishment and decision-making acumen. Experience & Theory PRAXIS

Share incentive programs with visioning & apprenticeship. Stake-holder Relational Economy Worker, consumer, founder, supplier investment, Research & Development.

8. Equality of men and women

In political and economic processes, deriving from time-based accounting for all community contributions. Men and women are grouped according to their 'trades' into Societies and interests.

Accounting for family & community service that valorizes individuals for service and vision.  Complementary human resource planning.'Caucusing' <Iroquois=grouping of like interests





Today's Applications

9. ‘Caucus’

< Iroquois = 'Grouping of  like-interests'

Inclusive foundation for diverse community perspectives, governance and co-operation. Individuals with like-interests unite as ‘societies’ in order to give recognition and represent points of view, contribution, specialty & expertise.

Free Association and disassociation of individuals. Flexible identification and organization of multiple stakeholder groups and appropriate time-based accounting for their natural contributions.

10. Consensus decision-making

Based in respect for diverse and common values. The group includes all points of view and action in decisions. Decisions allow for parallel courses of action such as the ‘Two Row Wampum Treaty.’ The individual is responsible to include the group. See endnote Page 4

Group dynamics and training in indigenous consensus models is distinguished from the ‘linear’ consensus model used by popular groups. Paired with caucusing it allows for free association of participants.

11. Vision quest, Progressive Ownership

The unique value of each individual, ap-prenticeship learning, adult-youth men-torship in Production Society foundation of indigenous education. Youth & adults at each stage of life are supported in seeking their personal vision or contri-bution (gift). Progressive Ownership

Community service, apprenticeship learning, adult-youth mentorship as the foundation of  youth education. Youth are supported in seeking their personal vision or contribution for the community. Goal identification exercises.  Progressive Ownership.

12. Time-based economic accounting


Kayoni, Wampum, Esnoguy, Seewan & Quipu traditional American hemisphere string calculators for record keeping. Graphic language systems. Accounting all community labor contributions to well being within each society (or caucus) Understandings of astronomy.

In societies (caucus). Inclusion of all stakeholder contributions to community well being forms a comprehensive model. Community Service Register, Research & Development for business, industry, Family care of members, etc.

13. Earth-based,


Data organization according to place by individuals & societies. Traditional geographic knowledge allowed natives to draw huge hemispheric sectoral maps and to chauffeur Europeans across it. Ecological Mapping allows for inter-disciplinary ecological impact analysis as well as research and development of resources (human and physical).

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for multi-discipline green mapping. Tiohtiake(Montreal region):

Heritage Rooted in Sustainability http://cbed.geog.mcgill.ca/WIP.html
Eco-Montreal Tiohtiake Green Map

www.eco-montreal.mcgill.ca  International: www.greenmap.org

14. Longhouse (apartment)



Living together with respect for vision, diversity, inclusive economics, dialectic expression, parallel complementary paths (eg. Two Row Wampum) & caucusing of like-interests.  Critical-mass economic planning allowed for ownership, special-ization and exchange.  Multi-generational living provided for the complementation of each age.  See endnote Page 4.

Planning for Collectively owned housing in apartment blocks, townhouses etc.  Stakeholder accounting, elemental housing design Respect for diversity, intra-parallel group dynamics, conflict resolution, caucusing, differential accounting for diverse stakeholders: worker, consumer, supplier, & founders.




Today's Application

15. Elemental Design

For buildings, infrastructure and economic activity including Sun (fire, heat), Air (wind), Water (rain and snow), Earth (compost and soil), Life (human ergo-dynamics, plants, bacteria, worms etc.). Forms the foundation for a ‘permacultural’ design of community.

Based in the five elements leading to ecological design of housing, transport, equipment, clothing, infrastructure, agriculture, complementation of resources and more.  Designing for the interaction of the five elements.

16. Orchard Agro-forestry mixed field cropping & wild plant nurture

Orchard Food Production.  Cultivate the earth. Trees penetrate the earth and sky, absorb sun-photosynthesis, raise & hold minerals, water, organic matter and life in myriad forms as a foundation for the biosphere as well as generating weather.

Identification of suitable forest cover, indigenous orchard perennial plants, permaculture technique, field cropping, storage and supply.  Consider with Elemental Design and Geographic Information Systems.

17. Tradition

Elders tell stories and bring reflection for past, present & future.

Environmental impact planning for seven generations.

18. Sovereignty

(integrated governance)

Flows from individual to clan, to village, to nation and between nations. Among the Haudenosaunee, visitors arriving at a village wait 'at the wood’s edge', smoking a fire and receiving village messengers of welcome or precaution.

Indigene is founded upon principles of self-realization and sovereignty, in order to economically and politically empower individuals, family, community and nation.

19. River based

Communities used canoe for transport of people, materials and goods.  The rivers kept alive through agro-forestry.

River (water) based communities honor water flow on the land and in all life forms.




Relational Economy means comprehensive recognition-of, accounting-for and empowerment-of the inherent economic relationships between us.  'Economy' is derived from <Latin = 'Care & nurture of the home be it domestic or worldly'.


Counter to 'relational' are fragmented ex-clusive, competitive & institutional economies.  Relational Economy, a foundation of indigenous peoples, challenges community activists to build sustainable relationships, belonging and ownership.



INDIGENE, Elemental Design,  2/9/10 Douglas Jack, eco-montreal@mcgill.ca  Eco-Montreal Tiohtiake Green Map www.eco-montreal.mcgill.ca Tiohtiake, Kanien’keh, Turtle Island, Mohawk Placename Mapping Sustain-ability Rooted in Heritage http://cbed.geog.mcgill.ca/WIP.html  Indigene Community www.indigenecommunity.info

Two Row Wampum Treaty: The Kanien'kehaka 'People of the Flint' lived in Kanien'keh a nation between Montreal and New York City as part of the Haudenosaunee 'People of the Longhouse' confederacy (Iroquois).  Reference: p10 Wampum Belts by Tehanetorens, '93, Iroqrafts, Ohsweken, Ontario, N0A1M0. This belt symbolizes the agreement and conditions under which the Iroquois welcomed the white (Dutch) peoples to this land.  "You say that you are our Father and I am your son."  We say, "We will not be like Father and Son, but like Brothers".  This wampum belt confirms our words.  "These two rows will symbolize two paths or two vessels, traveling down the same river together.  One, a birch-bark canoe, will be for the Indian People, their laws, their customs and their ways.  The other, a ship, will be for the white people and their laws, their customs and their ways.  We shall travel the river together, side by side, but in our own boat.  Neither of us will make compulsory laws or interfere in the internal affairs of the other.  Neither of us will try to steer the other's vessel."  The agreement has been kept by the Iroquois to this date.

  1. Question and Comments

    The gadget spec URL could not be found

Douglas Jack,
May 12, 2010, 5:46 PM