Medicine Walk


Tipi on the South Saskatchewan river, south of Saskatoon. Photo by Erin {Kestrel}, June 2011.

I want to honour one of the oldest things we have, which is our four directions.  We seek knowledge from those four directions. We get Power from those four directions.  They pull stuff into our lives.  When we call out to them in prayer, they will bring things to us.  The four directions came with creation.  We didn’t.  We were the last thing created.”
– female Elder from the Anishnabe Nation




Prairie. Photo by Erin {Kestrel}, July 2011.

“For the Dakota-Sioux, the Medicine Wheel is referred to as the Sacred Hoop. The sacred hoop holds the belief of equality, that everybody and everything has equal value with nothing and nobody being worth more or less than another.  The Sacred Hoop also represents the cycles of life.  The seasons move in a circle from spring to summer to fall to winter, and life moves in a circle from infants to youth to adults to old people.”

– female Elder from the Standing Buffalo First Nation


Sweat Lodge

Sweat Lodge. Photo by Erin {Kestrel}, June, 2011.

The most important part of the medicine wheel is the circle; we call it a hoop. You can see it n the trunk of the tree, the nest, the world, and the sky.  The circle is important in that it develops an energy that keeps flowing and building momentum.  Energy can continue to flow around a circle forever.  Sometimes we put a sick person in the middle of the circle.  All of the people sitting around the circle are an equal distance from the person in the middle and the energy focuses itself to the middle. You see, we all have a spirit, an energy that is transferable.  We also get energy from nature, because all things that are alive, including rocks, have energy to impart.”
– male Elder from the Standing Buffalo First Nation


Bison skull

Bison skull. Photo by Erin {Kestrel}, July 2011.

“On the prairie, the buffalo was the thing that all people lived off of. They needed nothing else but the buffalo. They used every part of the buffalo. Today our buffalo has been transformed into education for our people. When you get your education, no one can take it away from you. With your education, you can provide yourself with all the things the buffalo would have given us — food, clothing. Instead of chasing the buffalo, our young people better be chasing education.”
– female Elder from the Anishnabe Nation


buffalo stone

Buffalo Stone. Photo by Erin {Kestrel}, July 2011

“The Buffalo Rock is shiny. It’s where the buffalo would lean up and rub themselves. People often pray and make offerings like tobacco on large rocks. Large rocks serve as a reminder that we do bigger things than we can handle. They are humbling. The buffalo Rock is important because it was favoured by the buffalo. The Dakota are Buffalo people, so the buffalo are very important to us.”
– male Elder from Standing Buffalo First Nation



Wild Bergamot. Photo by Erin {Kestrel}, July 2011.

Some elders are comfortable with sharing plant knowledge and uses and some are not. The uses for some plants are given to us to use through visions and dreams. Each person may be given different plants and they may be used in different ways and for different purposes. We cannot say what a plant is used for in general because each plant will do different things depending on the person who uses them. And we cannot say what we use the plants for because it is sacred knowledge. If we do so, we will lose their gifts. Then, when we go to use them to help people, they will no longer work. There is a difference between wild and planted plants. The plants and medicines that grow in the wild are stronger and more powerful medicines, while those that are planted do not hold that same strength. The same goes for natural versus worked land. Once a land has been turned and worked by man, the plants that grow within it will not be as powerful as those that grow in untouched land. It is important when planting or picking any plant that we treat it with respect”.
– female Elder from the Standing Buffalo First Nation

All photos by Erin {Kestrel}.  All quotes from Medicine Wheel pamphlet created by the First Nations University of Canada.


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