To understand the significance of the medicine wheel, we need to go back to a time when most Indian nations were constantly at war with each other. Tribes were obsessed with wiping out their "enemies." Then a dramatic shift in perception occurred, and a peace was realized, which lasted for a period of 150 to 200 years. This long truce was the result of a great Iroquois chief, (sounds like Agonawila), later to become Hiawatha, who urged the tribes to cease the madness of brother killing brother, and formed an alliance, which came to be known as the Confederation of Nations. The Confederation recognized that Indian peoples were more alike than different. Even though they spoke different dialects, they had the same basic belief systems and followed similar traditions.
An important part of this transformation was the medicine wheel, which was placed in front of every tepee, and decorated in special symbols, colors, and stones, to let people entering the tribe know about its inhabitants. The medicine wheel was a reflection of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and it gave people guidelines to follow for personal growth. It told people what they needed to learn and what they needed to teach. Everyone was ordered to work on themselves, or else leave the tribe. After several generations of this work, people lost the concept of blame and anger. This, in turn, resulted in the longest peace in modern history.
Brother Eagle Soaring, from Arizona, explains the powerful impact of the medicine wheel: "If I said to you, ‘Does anyone ever make you angry?’ you would say yes. But in reality, this is totally impossible. You choose to be angry by the way you process the event. This is something you were taught to do as a child. If you could imagine not one person in all of New York City having the concept of anger, that’s what it was like during that time period of no wars before the white man came."
The medicine wheel is a circle divided by a cross to create four directions--the north, east, south, and west. A forerunner to astrology, each person is represented somewhere within that circle, depending upon their birth date. That placement is associated with a special moon, power animal, healing plant, color and mineral, as outlined below. Though more complex in actuality, here Brother Soaring Eagle gives an overview of the special meanings the medicine wheel can have for individuals:
from the site: Native American Healing
site of interest: WELCOME TO THE STONE ROOM