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Medicine Wheel: Reconciliation

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East Section

The Medicine Wheel is an important concept for Indigenous culture. The Wheel is a good representation about how Indigenous people see the world, especially how different things are interconnected (Joseph, 2013). The Wheel has four equal parts – East, South, West, and North, which are about emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental aspects, and other related ideas (Joseph, 2013).

Medicine Wheel pedagogy is a new approach in education that uses the idea of the Medicine Wheel to teach things that are related to Indigenous practices and beliefs (Bell, 2014). More specifically, it assigns educational concepts to each of the four directors of the Wheel, allowing students to learn a new concept in four steps (Bell, 2014). For this, the Wheel starts with the East section, which focuses on vision and awareness (Bell, 2014). For this step, the idea is to see or become aware of something new. Next, the South section focuses on understanding the new thing (Bell, 2014). Then, the West section focuses on understanding the new concept to gain knowledge (Bell, 2014). Finally, the North section focuses on using your newfound knowledge to do something (Bell, 2014).

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For me, reconciliation meant two groups of people coming together and resuming friendly relations. This means that these two groups had friendly relations sometime in the past, and then had conflict that caused them to become hostile to each other, before coming to a new understanding. Another important part of reconciliation for me is that at least one side knows that they did something wrong, and the other side accepts this. Finally, both sides have to actually agree to reconcile; it cannot be one sided.

South Section

My most memorable experience of reconciliation is solving my problems with my close friend. We were good friends until one day I noticed that he was acting cold and distant. This lasted for a few weeks and later I started to do the same thing, and we stopped talking except saying hello when we meet in groups. I thought he was wrong and did not understand why he was doing this. Finally I decided to just talk to him about it directly. He told that I was treating him badly by using his kindness, for example not offering to drive when we went somewhere. After this talk, I understood that I was wrong and apologized. He accepted my apology and we were both happy to return back to our relationship from before.

This experience taught me several things. First, it taught me to be more aware of how my actions affect other people. I am now more aware of how I treat other people and make sure to treat them well, the same way that I would like to be treated. It also taught me to be more appreciate of my friends and the things they do for me, and I started to be nicer to my friends. Finally, it taught me how to reconcile with people, and the value of reconciling. It is not always easy to apologize for your wrongdoing, but it is something you have to be comfortable with to grow as a person. The experience felt difficult at first, because I had to directly face my friend about a sensitive topic. But after I apologized I felt really good, because I knew I was doing the right thing and because I noticed my friend becoming happy.

West Section

Indigenous scholars look at reconciliation in a different way than I do. For Corntassel, apologizing is not enough. Reconciliation has to include the restoration or returning of something that was taken away or stolen (Corntassel, 2012). This serves as a form of fairness and justice. For example, if someone committed a crime, they cannot just apologize for it. They have to be punished for things to be fair and just. If justice is not done, then all that reconciliation does is return things to how they were before. Because of this, Corntassel says the way that reconciliation has been done by the BC and Canadian government is wrong, since it does not include returning anything to Indigenous peoples. For him, reconciliation simply put the wrongdoings of the older Canadian government out of sight. He says that reconciliation has to include the restoration of proper land rights to Indigenous people.

Winona LaDuke has a similar idea to Corntassel, because she says that just apologizing is not enough (2011). She says that the people who were wrong (in this example, the Canadian Government) also have to do something to redeem themselves. She says they have to do this because wrongdoing makes the wrongdoer himself feel burdened by their actions. So in this way, both groups in a reconciliation process are damaged by what happened, not just the group that suffered the obvious crime. These definitions of reconciliation changed how I think about it. Corntassel’s idea made me realize that I do give something back to the people that I wronged, and if I do not, then I am just lying to myself and them. In the example of my friend, I started returning his kindness and offering it with no expectation of anything in return. On the other hand, LaDuke’s ideas made me realize that I feel bad when I do something wrong, but only when I am aware that I did something wrong. And by apologizing and doing something about my wrongdoing, I am able to remove the guilt that I feel.

North Section

Now that I understand reconciliation using the Medicine Wheel, I have better ideas on what actions can be done to promote reconciliation between Indigenous people and Canadians in a way that is mutually beneficial. The topic that I want to discuss about reconciliation is education. It is obvious that Indigenous culture, teachings, and ideas are not enough in elementary, high school, and post-secondary education. So far, the main way Canadians have tried to solve this problem is to just recognize Indigenous history, but I think this is not enough. I think that Aboriginal knowledge and culture has to actually be included in education as a way to return something that was taken away from Indigenous people from the racism and abuse they have been through.

This course is what Canadians need to do more to truly have reconciliation with Aboriginal people, because it does not just recognize Aboriginal knowledge, but actually teaches us how to approach and learn something with Aboriginal methods and perspectives. In this way, it helps keep the culture and ideas of Aboriginal people alive, which is a way to heal and restore the damage of Aboriginal culture that happened before. This also allows both parties to heal because Canadians will no longer feel guilty. Another example is programs that use Aboriginal knowledge specifically for Aboriginal students. One program is used in Ontario to help produce Aboriginal social workers (“First Nations”, 2013). This program combines Aboriginal ways of teaching with Western education, and gives the students a bachelor’s degree. For example, students begin their learning by having a “culture camp” (2013) at a First Nations community, but the program still has to meet the requirements and standards of “mainstream” university courses.

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