atm-logoWhat is a medicine wheel?

John Chambers

San Jose, California

A medicine wheel, or sacred hoop, is indigenous to Indians in Canada and the northern states of the American West. The wheel, oriented to the four directions (north, south, east, west), represents the circle of life—harmony and peaceful interaction among living things.

Small medicine wheels decorate ceremonial drums symbolically, much like kachina dolls represent supernatural beings to Hopi Indians. Authentic medicine wheels were usually stone and laid out in a particular pattern. Some were quite large, like the medicine wheel in the Bighorn Mountains near Sheridan, Wyoming, that extends for about 75 feet in diameter.



Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.  If you have a question, write:  
Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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