Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest use a holistic approach when describing health. This approach includes showing how all aspects of well being such as the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects are connected. This is evident through the idea of the medicine wheel, which shows the importance of balance among all aspects of well-being.
The wheel itself is broken into four equal sections with each section containing an aspect of well-being, a direction, a color, an animal, and more. The North section of the medicine wheel contains the spiritual aspect of well-being, the color white, the white buffalo, and the medicine sweetgrass. The East direction contains the mental aspect, the color yellow, the eagle, and tobacco as the medicine. The South direction contains the emotional aspect, the color red, the red tail hawk, or wolf, and the cedar as its medicine. The West direction contains the physical aspect, the color black, a bear, and the medicine sage.
Through using the wheel and the different directions, it is up to the individual to find harmony within the four directions in order to feel balanced. The individual must determine where they lack balance on the wheel and work on reversing this feeling, through using different approaches such as using the medicine associated with the direction they feel they are lacking in (Dapice 252).
One of the most important features of the medicine wheel is its shape. The cyclical shape of the wheel shows there is no beginning or end when it comes to the healing process. The shape also shows how everything on earth is connected and must work together to achieve a sense of harmony and balance. Another important aspect of the medicine wheel is that the individual is at the center of the wheel, which means the individual must find balance between all aspects represented by the wheel in order to achieve a serene, peaceful way of life. (Dapice 251).
The medicine wheel is still used today in the Pacific Northwest, as well as throughout tribes of the United States. The wheel is useful in learning to maintain balance within our lives, decisions, and positive self-perception, as well as a useful way of achieving balance of the mind, body, spirit, and emotion (Dapice 259)