The medicine wheel teaches about the connection of the emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual aspects of life. Indigenous people believe everything flows in a circle, and the medicine wheel represents that circle divided into four sections.
It speaks of the need for balance, harmony and respect as an ancient system of traditional knowledge that many tribal peoples share under many different names. It continues to be a basic principle of the Anishinaabe learning process. The Medicine Wheel is an interconnected system of teachings relating to the seasons, directions, elements, colors and the cycle of life.
Four sections - four is a sacred number among many tribal people. Four directions, four cycles of life, four seasons, four winds and four quarters of the moon.
EAST - Beginning in the east, can represent a new beginning or the sunrise. The season is spring, everything is just starting to come alive, to bud or grow, the trees, the grass, and the flowers. The stage of life is infancy. The element is Earth, which was the first creation. The color is yellow. The sacred medicine for the east is tobacco and the human aspect is keeping a healthy spiritual well being.
SOUTH - represents the day cycle and everything that comes from this direction is warm, thus the season is summer. The life stage is youth. The element for the south is air, because we all need air to breathe, the vegetation to grow. The color is red. In the emotional health section is how aware are we of our emotions – identify feelings, healthy ways to express these feelings, not being afraid to seek help. The sacred medicine for the south is cedar.
WEST - season is fall, also representing the adult life stage, where we are preparing for the completion of our circle. The element for the west is water, again an essential for growth and life. The color is black, and sacred medicine is sage. The west represents the evening cycle as things are gradually coming to an end.
NORTH - the north is cold representing the winter season, and the fire to keep us warm. The stage of life is the elder, and the color white. In the human aspect, this would be the spiritual stage, when the elder has reached their peak in the knowledge of life they would take the time to pass it down to future generations to continue the cycle of life. The medicine wheel offers a guideline that teaches about the different connections of life. Being able to find balance and harmony helps a person live a moral, intuitive, and spiritual life. Everyone needs a balanced life and this is the teaching that indigenous people use as a guide.