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Aboriginal Leader's Conference Aboriginal Leaders in HIV/AIDS/HCV
Awareness Conference
The Silver Star Club Resort, Vernon BC
October 16th, 17th, and 18th, 2002
Okanagan Aboriginal AIDS Society
The Learning Concept of the Medicine Wheel

The Aboriginal people took a lot of their learning from observing nature. Animals appear to the east and their teaching is sacrifice, sharing, affection, and companionship. Animals constantly nurture and groom their young. Ducks carry their young on their backs and also keep them warm with their feathers and body heat. A mother bear will give up her life to save her young ones. Some animals will pretend to be wounded to lure predators away from their young. When an animal has been killed the predator will eat its fill and then leave, thus allowing other animals to share in the feast.

Grass appears to the south and we learn kindness from this gift. A person can walk on grass and it will spring right back. It can also be cut and it will continue to grow. We are told our kindness must be like the grass, always willing to extend our hand in kindness even if we have been trampled upon. Our kindness must always be open if we are to continue to grow as balanced people. One of the most difficult teachings of the south is the ability to express ourselves openly and freely without hurting anyone. The red willow tree teaches us this lesson. It will survive the harshest winter, fire, and drought. It is both the strongest and most flexible in the forest. It can be cut down and it will continue to grow. This gives us the ability to put our feelings aside in order that we may help others. It also allows us to rid ourselves of the feelings that inhibit the development of our intellect.

To the west are the mountains or rock. Rock is one of the hardest substances that we know of in all creation. We see rock as the source of great strength: it has survived through many climatic changes ever since the beginning. Even with this great strength the mountain yields to erosion or reason, a gift of the west.

The tree, which appears to the north of the sacred circle, teaches us profoundness and honesty. When we look at a tree, we cannot tell how connected it is with other trees or with Mother Earth in its roots. A tree, which has shallow roots will easily be uprooted and destroyed, whereas a tree, which is deep-rooted and intertwined with the roots of other trees will withstand the harshest elements. Our belief must be deep-rooted, so the people we interact with will recognize our profound conviction and will become a support system for us as a people. The growth of a tree teaches us that in order to grow as a human being, we must strive for honesty.

Reprinted with kind permission of the copyright holder:
Four worlds International Institute for Human and Community Development
Four Directions International
347 Fairmont Blvd S.
Lethbridge, Alberta, T1K 7J8
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Mark Pye Design and Photography

© 2002, Okanagan Aboriginal AIDS Society. Site designed by Brian Mairs Consulting