Treaty 2 Territory- Numbers have always played a significant part in traditional Aboriginal life. Many aspects are seen in terms of four. The Sacred Mystery, the source of all creation, reveals itself as the Powers of the Four Directions and these four powers provide the organizing principle for everything that exists in the world: the seasons, the races, the elements of the universe, the stages of life, the medicines and aspects of human behaviour. The medicine wheel, which is symbolized by an X within a circle, is a ceremonial tool and the basis for all teaching wheels, including the 4 pillars of the Earth Lodge, which are arranged in a Medicine Wheel circle, serving as the structure for all our work.

The number four is sacred to First Nations peoples and can represent many things, such as:

  • the four seasons, the four directions, the four colours, the four races, the four elements
  • the four stages of life: child, youth, adult, elder.
  • the four kingdoms: animal, mineral, plant and human.
  • the four sacred medicines: tobacco, cedar, sage and sweetgrass
  • the four aspects of being: spiritual (spirit), emotional (heart), physical (body) and mental (mind).

The medicine wheel symbolizes the interconnection of all life, the various cycles of nature, and how life represents a circular journey. One must strive for balance of the spirit, heart, body, and mind: feeding and nourishing all four aspects equally, in order to maintain a life that is full, happy and balanced. 

The Anishinaabek Medicine Wheel

East: Yellow, Spirit, Morning, Spring, Tobacco, Baby, Eagle

Spirituality is your connection with your inner self and all that is.  The Creator gave each of us a part of creation to carry with us every day, and that is our spirit.  A spirit can be old or new, but old or new, it comes from the Creator. That’s where it began as a complete source of life, complete with understanding and complete with the Creator’s love.  When we are born our spirits are pure and clean, and complete.  However, as we grow, things sometimes happen in our lives that cause us to cover our spirit to protect it.  By doing this, we can forget that it’s there and we forget how to connect with it through those layers we built up over the years to protect our spirit from the hurt we have experienced.  Yet our spirit never goes away, and at times, it will remind us of its existence.  When we hear traditional songs or the beat of the drum, see something in creation, or have a remarkable experience that truly touches our soul, that’s our spirit calling our attention back to the good things we remember from the Creator.  

South: Red, Heart, Afternoon, Summer, Youth, Cedar

Traditionally, the family unit of First Nations family structures provided all of the emotional support an individual needed.  Our aunties, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, clan mothers, and chiefs took interest and responsibility for our well-being.  We each understood how we were all connected and were therefore able to see that we were never alone.  This support system gave us a strong sense of belonging, which was necessary for healthy self-confidence and emotional stability.  We were supported and encouraged to feel our emotions.  When necessary, we were also assisted with ceremonies and medicine that doctored our emotional being.  Today, it’s not so easy to see or feel our connections with other people of our family, clan, nation, or creation.  However, we are still able to have that natural support network of people and a strong sense of belonging if we allow ourselves to see that our sense of family today can also come from our neighbours, community members, close friends, and the traditional community.  If we allow ourselves to reach out to the people in community organizations, who are there to help us, we can discover that family and friends are not hard to find.  

West: Black/Blue, Physical/Body, Evening, Autumn, Adult, Sage

Our bodies are gifts from the Creator, who decided to make human beings in the form we know today.  Like all gifts from the Creator, we must honour our physical human bodies and be thankful.  The purpose of our bodies is to provide a physical protection for our spirits.  We must therefore be mindful of how we use our bodies so we will be able to perform our duties in the best way possible throughout our lifetime.

The creator made male and female bodies different to facilitate our different roles in reproduction.  While involved in relationships, we fit together to make a perfect place for a spirit to enter the physical world.  This is a special and powerful thing that should be honoured and not abused for personal pleasure.  Our physical self also has security needs.  To feel comfortable and safe we each have physical boundaries for our personal space.  We need to be aware of our boundaries, assert our need for people to respect those boundaries, and respect the boundaries of others.

North: White, Mind, Night, Winter, Elder, Sweet Grass

As human beings, we were given a mind with the power of our own choice to decide how we will live.  The teachings of First Nations peoples continually stress the importance and power of positive thought when interacting with ourselves and others, as well as when dealing with any situation.  Our minds, our thoughts, have power.  Negative thoughts can bring harm to ourselves and to others.  Taking care of the mind also includes the acquiring of knowledge and sharing that knowledge with others.  It is important to strive to exercise and develop our minds and look for opportunities to grow and learn.

Submitted by Renée McGurry, Earth Lodge Development