The Medicine Wheel

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Name: Savannah Bakes (Ermineskin Cree Nation)
Grades: 9-12
Subject Areas: Science, Art, Physical Education, Social Studies etc.
Artefact /Place/ Skill: The Medicine Wheel

Making Space

How might teachers prepare their students to work with this content? What background knowledge might be required?

  • Teachers should understand the medicine wheel is a sacred and ancient symbol meant to represent the interconnectivity of all aspects of one’s being. Further, understand that not all First Nations, Métis or Inuit people use the medicine wheel.
  • The medicine wheel provides a holistic and balanced approach to teaching a variety of subjects.
  • Teachers should also consider that there is no wrong way to teach the medicine wheel if it is done with respect and an honest heart.
  • Some examples of teaching with the medicine wheel include:
    • The four directions (North, East, South, and West).
    • The main elements (Air, Fire, Water, and Earth).
    • One’s being (Intellect-mind, Emotional-heart, Spiritual-soul, and Physical-body).
    • The main elements of nature (Animal, Mineral, Plant, and Human).

Practice Humility

How might non-Indigenous teachers sensitively work with this subject? What might they need to consider in their own positionality?

Let’s strive toward sensitivity in the classroom!

  • The teacher should maintain self-awareness and be careful of portraying themselves as seeing through Indigenous eyes. Instead, they should identify and analyze their positionality within a dominant culture.
  • It’s crucial for educators to be conscious and empathetic towards the detrimental impact that colonization has had, and still has, on the Indigenous culture and way of living.
  •  Be careful of using Indigenous subjects as a level of “tokenism” in the classroom, and rather try to incorporate it throughout the course of the year in all subjects.
    • Bring the medicine wheel into teachings other than Social Studies and History. Provide teachings of the medicine wheel into Science, Math, English etc.
  • Be careful when speaking about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples as one group. Therefore, strive to understand that these three groups share different histories, perspectives, cultures, and experiences.

    Medicine wheel made of Rocks and crystals; Taken and made by: Savannah Bakes.
    Shows how you can use the natural resources from outside to make your own medicine wheel!

    • Acknowledge the diversity of the medicine wheels teachings among First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. (Note from above: Not all First Nations, Métis, or Inuit people use the medicine wheel).
  • If a student self-identifies as an Indigenous person of Canada, be careful in assuming that they are an “expert” at the medicine wheels teachings or any subject of that matter.
    • Invite an Elder, Indigenous artist, or musician into the classroom to share their teachings with pre-consent.
  • Be open to criticism from the supports around you.

Strive as an educator to continue to learn alongside your students!

Acknowledge Sources

What can teachers do to find good supporting resources? How should they be cited, especially when it comes to Indigenous knowledges?

  • Always cite an Elder or Knowledge Keeper as part of your reference. Acknowledge Indigenous people by their nations and where they affiliate from.
  • For help in citing Indigenous scholars:
  • It is important for teachers to acknowledge the territory that they are on. If possible, have someone from the Indigenous community specifically welcome you and the class to their territory.
  • To ensure that the process of speaking and learning from a local Indigenous person is reciprocal, it is important to not just receive information, but also consider ways in which you or your class can give back to the community or community member. This can be done through a gift, honorarium, or sharing of other knowledge. To understand how to establish a reciprocal relationship, teachers can consult with the school’s Indigenous support worker.
  • Collaborate with Indigenous support workers from the school or school board, the district principal for Indigenous affairs, trusted local contacts, and engage them in the process of consulting community Elders, knowledge keepers, artists, or members.

Online Resources:


Video Resources:

BC Curriculum Connections

How does it relate to BC Curriculum?

Click on the subject area below to expand the section.


Big Idea(s):

  • The biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere are interconnected, as matter cycles and energy flows through them.

Curricular Competencies:

  • Experience and interpret the local environment
  • Apply First Peoples perspectives and knowledge, other ways of knowing, and local knowledge as sources of information

Concepts & Content:

  • Matter cycles within biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems
  • First Peoples knowledge of interconnectedness and sustainability

Big Idea(s):

  • Understanding our strengths, weaknesses, and personal preferences helps us plan and achieve our goals.
  • Healthy choices influence, and are influenced by, our physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

Curricular Competencies:

  • Reflect on outcomes of personal healthy-living goals and assess the effectiveness of various strategies
  • Evaluate and explain strategies for promoting mental well-being
  • Describe the relationships between physical activities, mental well-being, and overall health

Concepts & Content:

  • Influences of physical, emotional, and social changes on identities and relationships

Big Idea(s):

  • Visual arts reflect the interconnectedness of the individual, community, history, and society.
  • An artist’s intention transforms materials into art.

Curricular Competencies:

  • Describe and analyze, using discipline-specific language, how artists use materials, technologies, processes, and environments in art making
  • Demonstrate awareness of self, others, and place through art making
  • Explore First Peoples perspectives, knowledge, and protocols; other ways of knowing, and local cultural knowledge through artistic works

Concepts & Content:

  • traditional and contemporary First Peoples worldviews, stories, and history, as expressed through visual arts
  • moral rights and the ethics of cultural appropriation and plagiarism

Big Idea(s):

  • Participation in outdoor activities allows for the development of skills in a complex and dynamic environment
  • Spending time outdoors allows us to develop an understanding of the natural environment, ourselves, and others.

Curricular Competencies:

  • Monitor environmental conditions during outdoor activities
  • Demonstrate and explain awareness of cultural and place-based sensitivities regarding the use of outdoor locations
  • Plan and implement ways to reduce the potential impacts of outdoor activities on the local environment

Concepts & Content:

  • First People's traditional practices and ecological knowledge related to activities in the local environment
  • Responsible use of the outdoor environment
  • The role of environmental awareness and stewardship in outdoor recreation and conservation

Big Idea(s):

  • The identities, worldviews, and languages of B.C. First Peoples are renewed, sustained, and transformed through their connection to the land.
  • Cultural expressions convey the richness, diversity, and resiliency of B.C. First Peoples.

Curricular Competencies:

  • Using appropriate protocols, interpret a variety of sources, including local stories or oral traditions, and Indigenous ways of knowing (holistic, experiential, reflective, and relational experiences, and memory) to contextualize different events in the past and present (evidence)
  • Assess the connectedness or the reciprocal relationship between people and place (cause and consequence)

Concepts & Content:

  • Traditional territories of the B.C. First Nations and relationships with the land

First Peoples’ Principles of Learning

Which First Peoples’ Principles of Learning apply?

  • The medicine wheel supports all aspects of life. This includes one’s self, family, community and the land.
    • Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.
  • The medicine wheel allows for you to reflect on the balance in your life. Its teachings help people grasp the concept of interconnectedness and reciprocal relationships in all aspects of living. Understanding these points will help students understand the consequences of their actions and how these actions may affect others.
    • Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).
    • Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one‘s actions.
  • Teaching the medicine wheel allows educators and students to understand and grasp Indigenous perspectives. A few of these understandings are that not all knowledge is meant to be shared.
    • Learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shared with permission and/or in certain situations.

Inviting Community

What is one way that teachers could work with community members for this project?

  • Teachers should take the time to learn about the local Indigenous community. If the teacher has a close relationship or tie with an Elder or Knowledge Keeper, they may invite them personally into the classroom.
  • Teacher is encouraged to establish a significant connection between the school and the local community by forming agreements grounded in reciprocity, respect, trust, relevance, time, and actionable plans.
  • Teachers should collaborate and engage with the Indigenous teachers/faculty or Indigenous support workers from the school or school board, the Indigenous district principal, trusted local contacts, or other relevant parties when attempting to engage community elders, knowledge keepers, artists, or members.
    • Have an Elder visit to teach on the medicine wheel, directed to your subject.