The cree medicine wheel

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The Cree Medicine Wheel as an Organizing Paradigm of Theories of Human Development
Annie Wenger-Nabigon

Abstract This paper explores the Cree Medicine Wheel as an organizing construct for examining some contemporary theories of human development. Various aspects of Medicine Wheel concepts are discussed along with aspects of knowledge about human development from themainstream paradigm (Eurocentric) that is dominant in the academy. Perspectives on indigenous wisdom and ways of knowing are presented from an ecological position linking human development concerns to a wholistic view of human development through the Cree Medicine Wheel. The article highlights aspects of the teachings which deepen understandings of parallels in human developmenttheories. Medicine Wheel teachings support development that maintains positive adaptation to a natural world, and can provide a description of contemporary human developmental theory from the perspective of traditional Aboriginal knowledge. Theories about different stages of human development and knowledge about assets that facilitate positive development at each stage arepresented, illuminating current concerns in human development theoretical perspectives.

Native Social Work Journal

Vol 7, pp. 139-161

140

Annie Wenger-Nabigon

Introduction This article uses the foundational structure and teachings of the Cree Medicine Wheel (Nabigon & Mawhiney, 1996) as an organizational structure for examining some contemporary understandings of humandevelopment. Human development is defined as the physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual development of the individual human being, as well as the cultural, social, and technological development of human families and societies. The Cree Medicine Wheel mirrors and explains concepts of human development in an elegant and comprehensive manner, but its origin from within the paradigm ofnon-western Aboriginal traditions has generally confined it to a position of academic discredit. Medicine Wheel concepts have experienced a rise of influence in academic writing in the recent past. Figure 1 gives an outline of the basic concepts of the Cree Medicine Wheel referenced in this article. The article begins with a brief literature review of Medicine Wheel concepts, followed by a briefdescription of the fundamental teachings of the Cree Medicine Wheel. (Readers are encouraged to reference Nabigon and Mawhiney (1996) for additional explication of the concepts used here.) This is followed by a discussion of several contemporary approaches to individual human development contextualized by the Cree Medicine Wheel teachings. Concepts of human development arising from the Eurocentric paradigmdominant in the academy cannot be completely integrated into Medicine Wheel models, nor do they subsume Indigenous teachings. The different paradigms do not articulate the other, yet they can be contextualized in relationship to each other through deepening our understandings of parallels. (A visual image of the Two-Row Wampum Belt and accompanying teachings comes to mind). This article contrastsand contextualizes different paradigms of understanding human development, and, while attempting to avoid evaluation, is intended to provide a framework for relationship. The goal is to open discussion in the academy of deeper understandings of Indigenous knowledge regarding human development.

Nishnaabe Kinoomaadwin Naadmaadwin

The Cree Medicine Wheel as an Organizing Paradigm of Theoriesof Human Development The Medicine Wheel

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There exists a range of presentations of differing concepts of the Medicine Wheel, by writers who are both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, who have written with various purposes, some more notable than others. A First Nations Films documentary by Richard Hersley, “The Medicine Wheel”, presents an artistic, balanced and integrated overview of the...
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