Native Indigenous Medicine Wheels are based in the peoples understanding of their respective cosmologies; their understanding of their universe, the creation of the earth, and humanity’s role in that creation.We tend to like Medicine Wheels icons because they are colorful but we often fail to realize that these smaller, ornamental wheels are based upon larger constructs built in nature hundreds of years to thousands of years ago. These constructswere used to mark the movement of planets, stars and other astronomical constructs. Native Indigenous people had a deep understanding of the astronomical occurrences in North America. These astronomical occurrences were used to govern the movement of peoples to seasonal camping habitats and the timing of certain rituals.
Native Americans perceive life as a series of cycles. The Lakota speak of the Cangleska (Chan-gles-Ka) Wakan, the Sacred Red Hoop of Life around which they walked. The United States government believed that the Lakota spoke of solely of religious beliefs which they dismissed as superstitious constructs. The military would not accept that the Lakota spoke literally of their physical environment. In addition to representing many spiritual teachings, the small circular icons we see worn and displayed represented a literal relationship between the Lakota and their physical environment in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was the Lakota relationship to Black Hills that was considered sacred.
The Black Hills are a geological wonder. It is a wedge shaped land mass that rises from the prairie in the western corner of South Dakota. It is as though someone cut a piece out of the Northern California forests and dropped them in the center of the western prairie. The Lakota speak of a Great Race of Animals around the Black Hills, the tumult of which caused the Hills to rise from the floor of the earth(1)
Below are several examples of medicine wheel icons from the Lakota tradition.1
Notice that the colors are in different directions on the wheel. Is there a correct placement of the colors on the wheel and what do they mean? Is there such a things as “ The right or wrong Medicine Wheel?” One internet author wrote: