The Medicine Wheel
Backstory and Context
The Medicine Wheel is said to be about 700 years old and used by Native American tribes, such as the Crow tribe, for rituals and other Indian practices. One article tells of a boy named Burnt Face, who fell into a fire as a baby and when he reached his teens, went into the mountains and while he fasted, built the medicine wheel. It's told that he drove away an animal who was attacked baby eagles, so he was carried off by an eagle and his face was made smooth. The Medicine Wheel is sometimes referred to as the "Sacred Hoop". Hundreds or even thousands of medicine wheels have been built on Native Americans lands all across the country. The structure of these enormous wheels symbolizes healing for the Natives. They have been around for centuries.
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce has also been to the Medicine Wheel to pray. The wheel has also attracted many New Age followers, who believe medicine wheels to be the centers of earth's energy. The wheel attracts thousands of followers each year and while photographs are permitted, nothing else should be disturbed. Visitors are asked to walk around the wheel in a clockwise direction and tread lightly on the fragile vegetation nearby. Some visitors hang prayers on the fence as they pass by, having faith in the positive energy they feel and the ritual history they believe the Natives left.
Today, the Bighorn Medicine Wheel is protected by a wire fence with wooden posts. There are also medicine wheels in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Alberta, to name a few. The medicine wheel was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 16, 1969. The site is open in summer months to the public but is closed periodically for American Indian ceremonies. More than 70-150 wheels have been identified in Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, and Alberta to name a few.