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Medicine Wheel

Archived Backgrounder

Medicine Wheel

A Way of Life

Ministry of Indigenous Affairs

The Medicine Wheel represents a First Nations way of life, beliefs and teachings that have existed for thousands of years. It is a circle divided into four coloured sections, red, yellow, white and a dark colour such as blue or black. It can be set out using stones or drawn.

Interpreting the Wheel

First Nations communities across Ontario and North America interpret the Medicine Wheel in slightly unique ways. The wheel is often used as a tool for healing and for teaching life skills.

Some of the most common interpretations of the colours, include the seasons and directions:

  • Yellow represents the East or spring
  • Red represents the South or summer
  • Dark blue or black represents the West or autumn
  • White represents the North or winter.

Other interpretations can also include the elements - earth, water, sky and fire.

Interpretations in Ontario First Nations Cultures

Three First Nations cultural groups that have long histories in Ontario include the Anishinabek, the Omushkego and the Haudenosaunee.

The Anishinabek refer to the medicine wheel as the circle of life, symbolizing the natural cycles of birth, growth, death, and regeneration. The wheel represents all life including animals, plants, minerals and humans. It is also signifies the cycles of nature - the seasons, the moon, days and nights.

To the Omushkego, the Medicine Wheel is also a metaphor for the knowledge of the elders.

The Medicine Wheel is place of prayer and learning. It is a symbol of healing and interconnectedness and often represents our place in nature and how we are related to our environment.

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