Grade Seven Thematic Unit Part 2: Medicine Wheel Teachings

Part Two: Medicine Wheel Teachings

Social Studies: Medicine Wheel Teachings

Time Frame: 90 Minutes or two 45 Minute periods


  • Students will be made aware of non-linear thinking patterns and view the world in a holistic experiential way.

  • Students will be introduced to the concept of the Medicine Wheel.

  • Students will be able to view historical Medicine Wheels and be able to relate to the Medicine Wheel from a First Nation perspective. If at all possible students will be able to view an ancient stone Medicine Wheel firsthand (located throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan).


  • Students will be provided with a handout regarding the Medicine Wheel and its teachings.

  • Students will be able to do a variety of large and small group activities discussing the teachings of the Medicine Wheel.

  • Students will be able to draw Medicine Wheels and make them in art.

  • Students will be able to see how they are in balance or not in balance regarding their self as it relates to the Medicine Wheel.


  • Medicine Wheel handout

  • Notebook or Looseleaf Paper

  • Imagination

Space Requirements: Classroom and other areas where students can break into small groups.

Background Information:

The Medicine Wheel format has been used in a variety of First Nations, primarily it was a Plains Indian teaching but now it goes right across “Turtle Island” (North America). Turtle Island is a creation story which describes the origins of the world. This story will be attached at the end of this lesson.

First Nation teachings mirror a circular approach to understanding and education. The interconnectedness reflected in First Nations teaching expresses that what one person does affects all things. These circular teachings are used in personal situations to global situations and the environment.

The Medicine Wheel teachings relate to a number of important concepts. One being the concept of the number four, as four is regarded as a sacred number for many First Nations.

Another important concept in regards to the Medicine Wheel is that First Nation knowledge is originated through family. Therefore, many concepts that are true for one family or community may not be true for another. We recommend that you try to teach the best that you know or that you are aware of. An option would be to ask an Elder from your community or from a surrounding community to come in and talk to your students about their personal beliefs reflecting the Medicine Wheel.

The following lessons are to provide you with basic information regarding Medicine Wheels and aid you in teaching the concepts. It would be beneficial if you were to read further into Medicine Wheels to gain a stronger understanding of their meanings, origins and sacredness. Other sources are available perhaps in your community or through the Internet. Some First Nation people may not want to touch on these subjects as it is extremely personal information (Wells, 2003).


  1. Have students read aloud with the class the information on the Medicine Wheel teaching handout (located at the end of this lesson plan).

  2. Go through the various concepts (Readings should take about 15 minutes).

    • Divide the students into small groups and have them discuss the answers for the questions on the Medicine Wheel worksheet (15 minutes).

  3. Students come back from their small groups and present to the class four points they made within the discussion groups (15 minutes).

  4. Have students view various Medicine Wheels on the teacher’s coloured overhead copy or on the screen via a PowerPoint presentation (15 minutes).

  5. The teacher is to facilitate a large group discussion regarding Medicine Wheels (10 minutes). Identify the colours and the direction of each section of the Medicine Wheel. Possible Questions to ask:

    • What are some of the components of the Medicine Wheel?

    • Identify the importance of the Medicine Wheel in explaining the Aboriginal World view of Plains Indian cultures.

    • What happened to many of the historical Medicine Wheels?

    • How have Medicine Wheels evolved?

  6. Students are asked to reflect in their journals or on a piece of paper what they have learned about Medicine Wheels historically and in contemporary times (10 minutes). Reflection Starters:

    • These are my thoughts about the Medicine Wheel...

    • The part of myself that I know the most about is (pick one: Mental, Physical, Spiritual, Emotional) because...

  7. Students are then to complete the questionnaire (10 minutes).


  • Students will be given questions to answer regarding the Medicine Wheel.

  • The teacher can view their journal writing and evaluate their writing based upon the writing rubric located here.

Optional Resources: For Social Studies: Medicine Wheel Teachings:

Bruchac, J., & Locker, T. (1996). Between Earth & Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places (1st ed.). San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace & Co.

Donald, D. (2003). Elder, Student, Teacher: A Kainai Curriculum Métissage. Retrieved from

Ewing, J. (2005). Using the Medicine Wheel to Bring Balance to the Earth.

Whiskeyjack, F. The Medicine Wheel. Retrieved from

Yanko, D. (2008). Endangered Stones. Retrieved from

Reading/Language Arts/Creative Writing: Turtle Island

Origin: Blackfoot

Turtle Island

Long ago, after the Great Mystery, or Kitchi-Manitou, first peopled the Earth, the Anishinabe, or Original People, strayed from their harmonious ways and began to argue and fight with one another. Brother turned against brother and soon the Anishinabe were killing one another over hunting grounds and others disagreements. Seeing that harmony, brotherhood, sisterhood, and respect for all living things no longer prevailed on Earth, Kitchi-Manitou decided to purify the Earth. He did this with water.

The water came in the form of a great flood, or mush-ko'-be-wun', upon the Earth destroying the Anishinabe people and most of the animals as well. Only Nanaboozhoo, the central figure in many of the Anishinabe oral traditions, was able to survive the flood, along with a few animals and birds who managed to swim and fly. Nanaboozhoo floated on a huge log searching for land, but none was to be found as the Earth was now covered by the great flood. Nanaboozhoo allowed the remaining animals and birds to take turns resting on the log as well. Finally, Nanaboozhoo spoke.

"I am going to do something," he said. "I am going to swim to the bottom of this water and grab a handful of earth. With this small bit of earth, I believe we can create a new land for us to live on with the help of the Four Winds and Kitchi-Manitou."

So Nanaboozhoo dived into the water and was gone for a long time. Finally he surfaced and, short of breath, told the animals that the water is too deep for him to swim to the bottom. All were silent. Finally, Mahng, the Loon spoke up. "I can dive under the water for a long way, that is how I catch my food. I will try to make it to the bottom and return with some earth in my beak."

The Loon disappeared and was gone for a very long time. Surely, thought the others, the Loon must have drowned. Then they saw him float to the surface, weak and nearly unconscious. "I couldn't make it, there must be no bottom to this water," he gasped. Then Zhing-gi-biss, the helldiver, came forward and said, "I will try next, everyone knows I can dive great distances." So the helldiver went under. Again, a very long time passed and the others thought he was surely drowned. At last he too floated to the surface. He was unconscious, and not till he came to could he relate to the others that he too was unable to fetch the earth from the bottom.

Many more animals tried but failed, including “Zhon-gwayzh”, the mink, and even “Mizhee-kay", the turtle. All failed and it seemed as though there was no way to get the much needed earth from the bottom. Then, a soft muffled voice was heard. "I can do it," it spoke softly. At first no one could see who it was that spoke up. Then, the little “Wa-zhushk", muskrat, stepped forward. "I'll try," he repeated. Some of the other, bigger, more powerful animals laughed at muskrat. Nanaboozhoo spoke up. "Only Kitchi-Manitou can place judgment on others. If muskrat wants to try, he should be allowed to."

So, muskrat dove into the water. He was gone much longer than any of the others who tried to reach the bottom. After a while Nanaboozhoo and the other animals were certain that muskrat had given his life trying to reach the bottom. Far below the water's surface, Muskrat had in fact reached the bottom. Very weak from lack of air, he grabbed some earth in his paw and with all the energy he could muster began to swim for the surface. One of the animals spotted Muskrat as he floated to the surface. Nanaboozhoo pulled him up onto the log. "Brothers and sisters," Nanaboozhoo said, "Muskrat went too long without air, he is dead." A song of mourning and praise was heard across the water as Muskrat's spirit passed on to the spirit world. Suddenly Nanaboozhoo exclaimed, "Look, there is something in his paw!" Nanaboozhoo carefully opened the tiny paw. All the animals gathered close to see what was held so tightly there. Muskrat's paw opened and revealed a small ball of earth. The animals all shouted with joy. Muskrat sacrificed his life so that life on Earth could begin anew.

Nanaboozhoo took the piece of earth from Muskrat's paw. Just then, the turtle swam forward and said, "Use my back to bear the weight of this piece of earth. With the help of KitchiManitou, we can make a new Earth." Nanaboozhoo put the piece of earth on the turtle's back. Suddenly, the wind blew from each of the Four Directions. The tiny piece of earth on the turtle's back began to grow. It grew and grew and grew until it formed a mi-ni-si', or island, in the water. The island grew larger and larger, but still the turtle bore the weight of the Earth on his back. Nanaboozhoo and the animals all sang and danced in a widening circle on the growing island. After a while, the Four Winds ceased to blow and the waters became still. A huge island sat in the middle of the water, and today that island is known as North America.


Muskrat’s Den. (2004). How Muskrat Created the World. Retrieved from

Information Handout: Medicine Wheels

medicine wheel

Information Handout: Historical and Contemporary Medicine Wheels

Historical Medicine Wheels:

The earliest use of the phrase Medicine Wheel was the Big Horn Medicine Wheel located in Wyoming. The Big Horn Medicine Wheel’s structure displays a central cairn (rock pile) encircled by stones with spokes which connect the innermost cairn to the outer circle of stones. The Big Horn Medicine Wheel appears to look like a side view of a large wagon wheel. The Medicine Wheel carries religious importance to First Nation people (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

big horn medicine wheel

Archaeologist, John Brumley defines three traits of Medicine Wheels, stating that at least two of these three traits have to be present to form a Medicine Wheel (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005). These three traits as stated by Brumley are:

  1. A central stone cairn

  2. One or more concentric stone circles

  3. Two or more stone lines radiating outward from a central point

The circle is significant in that it has no beginning and no end. When you interpret beliefs within the Medicine Wheel overlapping can take place. The concepts within the Medicine Wheel can be interpreted different ways by different people. Please find an example of a contemporary Medicine Wheel below:

medicine wheel complete

Image is from: Whiskeyjack, F. The Medicine Wheel. Retrieved from

Medicine Wheels Worksheet



Answer the following questions based upon readings and discussions on the subject of the Medicine Wheel.

1) Identify Four Colours:

2) Identify Four Seasons:

3) Identify Four parts of spirit/self:

4) Identify Four stages of the Human Being:

5) Where did the term “Medicine Wheel” originate? Answer using complete sentences.


6) Alberta Archaeologist John Brumley identified three traits that depict Medicine Wheels. Identify one trait and explain using your own words.


Visual Art: Medicine Wheel

Time Frame: Three 45 Minute periods


  • Students will be able to construct a variety of Medicine Wheel crafts.

  • Students will be made aware of the various types of Medicine Wheel crafts.

  • Students will be able to relate their craft to their social studies lesson depicting Medicine Wheels.

  • Students will be able to see that the circles have no beginning and no end.


  • Direct Instruction

  • Hands-on experiential learning

  • Small groups

  • Peer interaction

Background Information:

 Below is a panoramic view of the Big Horn Medicine wheel, located in Wyoming. This specific medicine wheel has 28 spokes. The number 28 holds a lot of meaning with this Medicine Wheel as there are 28 spokes used in the roof of ceremonial lodges; as well the number 28 has been connected to the stages of the moon and the amount of days in a human reproductive cycle (Dutch, 2003).

The Big Horn Medicine Wheel is 500-600 years old, with the central cairn being the oldest part. This central cairn is elevated along with a number of others on the outside edge of the wheel. These elevated cairns have been suspected to have astronomical alignments. Excavations have revealed that the Big Horn central cairn extends underneath the wheel, an area which has been hidden by soil that was blown overtop (Dutch, 2003). This wheel has a calculated diameter of twenty-five metres and having twenty-eight radiating spokes and six stone cairns surrounding its border (Longfeather, 2006).

big horn medicine wheel


Dutch, S. (2003). Medicine Wheel, Wyoming.

Craft 1: Yarn Wrapped Medicine Wheel

Timeframe: 45 Minutes


  • Plastic margarine container or thick Cardboard

  • Blue, red, yellow, white yarn

  • Glue

  • Scissors Optional


  • Pony Beads

  • Feathers

  • Sparkles


  1. You need the Medicine Wheel #1 stencil which is located at the end of this unit.

  2. Use this stencil to cut out a Medicine Wheel from a margarine lid or thick cardboard.

  3. Using the white yarn, hang a slightly longer piece of yarn on the middle of the circle, wrap that yarn with the rest of the piece and continue wrapping around the circumference of the circle. Stop wrapping white yarn about a 1/4 of the way around the circle.

  4. Then, using yellow yarn, repeat the procedure. You should be able to wrap the end of the white yarn into the circle.

  5. Repeat with red and blue yarn, ensure that you are wrapping the yarn tight and the end of the last colour is wrapped in. That way, there will be no loose yarn hanging down. You can use white glue to secure the ends and also use it prior to wrapping if you so desire.


  • Instead of using yarn, you can use plastic craft string, used for friendship bracelets and necklace making.

  • You could also substitute the blue colour for black if you so desire.

  • You can attach pony beads and feathers from the Medicine Wheel which can be used as a decoration on a tree, house or rearview mirror.

Craft 2: Rock Formation Medicine Wheel

Timeframe: 45 Minutes


  • Sandpaper square

  • Glue or hot glue gun and hot glue

  • Small rocks (optional: these rocks can be painted beforehand to blue, yellow, red and white, with spray paint or acrylic paint)

  • Pictures/ Depictions of Medicine Wheel formations (this can be done during prior Internet research or through books in the library)

  • Recipe card.


  1. Have students view the Medicine Wheel and place their rocks accordingly. (Students can view a variety of different formations.)

  2. Glue the rocks to the sandpaper.

  3. Talk to the children about how the original Medicine Wheels were sometimes as large as a football field.

  4. Tell students how Medicine Wheels are now used by a variety of First Nations people on Turtle Island (North America) to teach about First Nations culture. With the recipe card have the student write a brief description of the Medicine Wheel. Students can either work in pairs or by themselves. Students should be prepared to present and discuss their creation.

Craft 3: Medicine Wheel Craft

Timeframe: 45 Minutes


  • Pony Beads: White, Yellow, Red and Blue. (7 of each colour, 28 beads per student)

  • Craft feathers

  • Metal (preferred because it is durable) or plastic macramé rings about 10cm to 15cm (4” to 6”) in diameter

  • Leather lacing or hide cut in long lace strips


  1. Use the strips if possible because it will not break as easy as the leather lacing you find in craft stores. To make the hide strips, cut a 4 x 4 inch square of leather in a circular formation until you have a long leather lace.

  2. Test the lace for durability by pulling on it but do not pull too hard or it will break. Take the metal circle and leave about 5-10cm based upon the length of the lace and begin wrapping the leather around the metal circle. Be sure to wrap the leather tightly as leather has give and may go loose.

  3. Tie a knot when the circle is completely covered in leather.

  4. Take another lace of leather (you can use the craft leather lace for this part), leaving about a finger’s length (7-10cm) wrap it around the side of the circle. Tie a knot and place seven white and seven red pony beads on the lace, then tie to the other side of the circle, make sure that it is directly across from the original knot, make sure that the lace is tight, knot it and then leave about a fingers’ length of lace, to which you will attach the feathers upon completion.

  5. Repeat the process with blue and yellow beads, the blue should be on the west side of the circle.

  6. Then attach feathers to the hanging leather pieces, you can place glue on the knot to secure the feathers or you can hand sew the feathers on.


  • You could use Red Willow or other wood that you could form into a circle.

  • You could use sinew to string the beads across.

  • You could use pony beads to hang on the leather before adding the feathers.

  • You could use pony beads at the top for extra decoration.

  • Instead of using craft feathers, students could use feathers they find, such as small goose or duck feathers or feathers from prairie chickens

Health: The Medicine Wheel and Balancing the Four Parts of Self

Time Frame: Two 45-60 Minute periods


  • To provide students with an opportunity to reflect upon the various components of their self.

  • Compare and contrast their personal view of health and wellness with the teachings of the Medicine Wheel.

  • Provide students with a different worldview regarding health.


  • Teacher lecture

  • Personal reflection

  • Small group discussion

  • Hands on experiential learning

  • Brainstorming

  • Group reflection.


  • Chart Paper

  • Medicine Wheel Handout

  • Overhead Projector and Screen

  • Teacher’s Notes on Projector Paper

  • Health Notebook or Water Spirit Notebook

  • Magazines, Scissors, Glue Sticks.

Space Requirements:

  • Students’ desks

  • Space for students to break into groups for discussion.

Background Information:

The Medicine Wheel can be used to express the four different parts of self: Mental, Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual. Yet these different parts of self are all interconnected together in a circle, creating no beginning and no end. Each part requires balance from the other parts in order to achieve optimal health. When individuals choose to focus only on one of the four parts of self, they become unbalanced and subsequently unable to achieve their optimal health. In order to avoid doing this, it is important to objectively look at one self and to reflect on who they are.

Beneficial Resource

Bopp, J., Bopp, M., Bopp, B., Bopp, L., Brown, L., & Lane, P. (1984). The Story of the Sacred Tree. Retrieved from: =Medicine+Wheel++The+four+parts+to+self+are+Mental,+Physical,+Emotional+an d+Spiritual.&ots=_PQ9UjUElV&sig=yF_tJTQwBTH1OdgPgG20dODNjJs


  1. Read through the Teacher’s notes which should be placed on the overhead projector, these notes should be written into notebooks and discussed by the whole classroom as they are presented. Students can reflect on how they feel about each section and its importance (20 minutes).

  2. Divide up into groups of four and draw a circle divided by the four sections: Mental, Spiritual, Physical and Emotional on the large chart paper. Have students brainstorm and write down activities or concepts that relate to each of the sections. For example, Mental: deciding, choosing, math, Physical: running, sports, dance. Emotional: feelings, happiness, sadness. Spiritual: connection to land, Creator/God, belief system.

  3. After writing these concepts down within the circle, the students will take turns discussing what each means to their self. Students should come up with one sentence or more for each section, as there are four students per group, each student should write one reflective sentence (25 minutes).

  4. Small groups will come back together to the classroom. Each student should have a reflective sentence on one part of the Medicine Wheel. Each student will read aloud their reflective sentence. Students are asked to jot down sentences in their notes to which they feel they could relate (15 minutes).

  5. Individual work: have students write their reflection of how the Medicine Wheel could be used by them to improve their attitude or lifestyle. Have students take a photocopy of the Medicine Wheel worksheet and write their reflective sentences. Have students identify for themselves how they are able to fulfill their Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual needs (20 minutes).

  6. Medicine Wheel Collage: have students draw a Medicine Wheel on large construction paper dividing it into four sections. Using magazines and scissors have students cut out pictures that depict Mental, Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual. Glue the pictures in the allocated sections. Write the words (Mental, Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual) on the outside of the circle (30 minutes). Have students share their collages with a fellow student to explain what is meant by the pictures (10 minutes).


  • Invite an Aboriginal health care professional that works with the perspective and teachings of the Medicine Wheel to come and give a presentation.

  • Or invite an Aboriginal Elder to come in and explain the Medicine Wheel teachings as they relate to personal growth.

Evaluation: Students will be evaluated based on their completed work by using a rubric. Students’ presentations and group evaluation will be done by peer evaluation through the student group rubric. Students could also be given a quiz regarding the Medicine Wheel teachings.

Information Handout: Health and the Medicine Wheel

Medicine Wheel: Emotional, Mental, Physical, and Spiritual

medicine wheel

The Medicine Wheel

The Medicine Wheel is a sign of the four parts of self. These parts of self are related and interconnected with each other, providing a holistic view of a person from an Aboriginal perspective. The Medicine Wheel is a holistic approach to understanding humanity and the needs that one requires in order not only to survive but to prosper.


Our mental aspect of ourselves is the primary part that facilitates what we think and believe, expressing our opinions and perspectives of how we see the world, what we think and how we discover. In order to successfully take care of our mental aspect of self, we should continue to learn new things.


Our physical aspect of ourselves is represented through our body, self image and physical self. We can care for our physical aspect of ourselves by eating healthy and becoming physically fit and/or maintaining our physical fitness.


The emotional aspect of us is the part that expresses our feelings. An individual person is constantly provided an option in how they feel about their life as a whole and the situations within it. No other person can force you to feel a certain way. We can care for our emotional aspect of ourselves by being honest with others and ourselves, in regards to how we are feeling and why those feelings are there.


The spiritual aspect of ourselves is reflected in the beliefs that there is a higher power in existence, higher than oneself. These beliefs can be expressed in a number of different ways, for many people it is expressed as the Creator or as God.

Medicine Wheel Health Worksheet

Identify and write in each section how you are able to fulfill your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

medicine wheel health




Science: Archaeological findings regarding Medicine Wheels

Time Frame: 90 Minutes or two 45 Minute periods


  • To provide students with an archaeological perspective of the Medicine Wheel formations located on the Great Plains.

  • To have students relate to the First Nation’s perspective and compare and contrast that with the archaeological perspective.


  • Teacher lecture

  • Internet research

  • Library research

  • Working in partners

Materials:  Lecture Notes

Internet and library research materials:  John Brumley Handout (Below) and questionnaire

Space Requirements: Classroom

Information Handout: Medicine Wheel from Archaeological Perspective

Archaeologist, John Brumley defines three traits of Medicine Wheels, stating that at least two of these three traits have to be present to form a Medicine Wheel (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005). These three traits as stated by Brumley are:

  1. A central stone cairn

  2. One or more concentric stone circles

  3. Two or more stone lines radiating outward from a central point

According to Brumley, Medicine Wheels can be described through eight categories (types) which he developed based on the Medicine Wheel’s structure (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

1. Type One Medicine Wheels

medicine wheel types
  • Usually Type One Medicine Wheels have an innermost cairn encircled by stones (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

  • There are 18 known Type 1 Medicine Wheels in Alberta (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

2. Type Two Medicine Wheels

  • Type Two Medicine wheels are an alternative to Type One, as they have a passageway leading away from the circle of stones (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

  • There are four known Type Two Medicine Wheels (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005). Image found (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005)

3. Type Three Medicine Wheels

  • Type Three Medicine Wheels have an innermost cairn which has spokes radiating away from the centre (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

  • There are four known Type Three Medicine Wheels (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

4. Type Four Medicine Wheels

  • Type Four Medicine Wheels have a stone circle which has spokes radiating away from the centre (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

  • Type Four Medicine Wheels are the second most common structure of Medicine Wheels (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

  • There are 14 known Type Four Medicine Wheels confirmed in Alberta (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

5. Type Five Medicine Wheels

  • Type Five Medicine Wheels have an outer stone circle with spokes radiating inwards, towards the centre of the circle (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

  • There is only one Type Five Medicine Wheel in Alberta (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

6. Type Six Medicine Wheels

  • The Type Six Medicine Wheel is similar to Type Five, however the difference is that Type Six has an innermost cairn (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

  • There is only one Type Six Medicine Wheel in Alberta (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

7. Type Seven Medicine Wheels

  • Type Seven Medicine Wheels have an innermost cairn which is encircled by stones which have spokes radiating away from the centre (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

  • There are three Type Seven Medicine Wheels known (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

8. Type Eight Medicine Wheels

  • Type Eight Medicine Wheels are similar to Type Seven, however the difference is that on Type Eight Medicine Wheels, the spokes radiate from the innermost cairn and continue across the outer circle (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

  • There is only one Type Eight Medicine Wheel in Alberta (Royal Alberta Museum, 2005).

Information Handout: Examples of Medicine Wheels

medicine wheel examples

Locating Medicine Wheels Worksheet

Answer the following questions based upon readings and discussions on the subject of the Medicine Wheel. Please find a map with the locations of Medicine Wheels. Locate where you are in relation to the map.

medicine wheel locations

1) Where are the most important Medicine Wheels found (Name of the Medicine Wheels and Location)?


2) Alberta Archaeologist John Brumley identified eight types of Medicine Wheels. Identify one type and explain using your own words.


Resource: Yanko, D. (2008). Endangered Stones. Retrieved from

Medicine Wheels Internet Worksheet

Find information on the Internet or in the library regarding the following Medicine Wheel formations; be sure to include the website or reference, location and a brief description. Optional: draw a small picture of the Medicine Wheels in your description.

  • The Turtle:






  • The Snake:






  • The Big Horn Medicine Wheel:





Find information on the Internet or in the library regarding the following Medicine Wheel formations; be sure to include the website or reference, location and a brief description. Optional: draw a small picture of the Medicine Wheels in your description.

  • The Turtle

Example Website:

Location: Minton, Saskatchewan

Description: The Medicine Wheel found in southern Saskatchewan is shaped like a turtle, having both a tip for the nose and a tip for the tail which both are aligned with the summer solstice’s sunrise…etc.

  • The Snake: The Great Serpent Mound

Example Website:

Location: Southwest Ohio

Description: The length of the Great Serpent Mound is 1330 feet, and is 3 feet high. The Great Serpent Mound seems to be about to consume an egg. However there is a lot of debate over the meaning behind the Great Serpent Mound. For First Nations People, the Serpent carries a lot of importance, and is symbolic of “great power” and “energy.” Some First Nation Peoples believe the Serpent to be one of the “keepers of the land.”…etc.


  • The Big Horn Medicine Wheel

Example Websites:


  • Wyoming, USA.

  • Located on a ridge of Medicine Mountain

Description: The Big Horn Medicine Wheel, found in Wyoming, was one of the most recognized Medicine Wheels…etc.

Information Handout: Big Horn Medicine Wheel and Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel

The name “Medicine Wheel” originated in the 1800s and received its name in order to portray all of the Aboriginal stone structures seen on the Northwestern Plains. These structures can be found in different forms; however they all share a few main factors:

  • A centrally situated stone cairn.

  • One to two rounded concentric stone rings having a diameter which ranges from ten to thirty metres.

  • Numerous stone lines which range from three to one hundred and twenty metres end to end. These lines branch out, away from the central point, the central cairn or the outer borders of the stone rings.

Medicine Wheels have usually been located on “prominent topographic settings” mainly found on hilltops or on high river ledges, where they are exposed to many environmental factors, like wind and rain. Yet there has also been Medicine Wheels built in the prairies and in river valleys.

As we have previously studied, the Big Horn Medicine Wheel found in Wyoming was one of the most recognized Medicine Wheels. The first time it was brought to the public’s attention was in 1895 in Field & Stream Magazine, which depicted the Medicine Wheel and initiated theories as to the Big Horn Medicine Wheel’s origin and use.

moose mountain

A very similar Medicine Wheel was made in southeastern Saskatchewan, on Moose Mountain. These two Medicine Wheels share such a strong resemblance that it is hypothesized that they were made by the same Aboriginal culture, despite the 425 miles between the Big Horn Medicine Wheel and the Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel (Longfeather, 2006).

Reference: Dutch, S. (2003). Medicine Wheel, Wyoming


  1. Begin instruction about the Medicine Wheels by having students hypothesize about various forms of archaeological evidence (15 minutes).

    • What kind of material evidence might be found at these sites? Arrowheads, human skeleton remains, abundance of animal bones in one area, stone hammers, black ash remains in layers of soil indicating large campfires, etc.

  2. Distinguish between the archaeological cultural (human) evidence we will explore and the petrified evidence of the dinosaur age and ancient forests that existed before any human evidence was found.

  3. For motivation, raise several unanswered questions with the class, concluding that we will explore some answers as we learn about the Medicine Wheels (15 minutes).

    • What evidence indicates that some Medicine Wheels were used as burial lodges?

    • What other purposes might the Medicine Wheels have served?

    • How valid is the evidence that the Medicine Wheels of the Great Plains may have been connected to more than merely isolated local practices?

    • What might be some meanings behind the mysterious Medicine Wheels?

    • Will we ever know the truth for certain?

  4. Using the background information on this lesson plan and other information you may have on Medicine Wheels provide the students with a lecture regarding Medicine Wheels (10 minutes).

  5. Have students review the various formations of the Medicine Wheels that have been examined by John Brumley an Alberta archaeologist. Have students review the handout which is based on the Alberta website information. Have students read through information and write jot notes in their notebooks. Have students work on their own to answer questions from the worksheet (20 minutes).

  6. In small groups or pairs have students discuss the various formations and look for evidence via the library and the Internet of where these formations are found. Students will then identify where they are in relation to the Medicine Wheels. Students will use the Internet/library research sheet to find out where certain Medicine Wheels are located (30 minutes).

  7. Students will then present their findings to the class (15 minutes).


  • Group participation rubric

  • Individual assignment completion and assessment