Most indigenous people would agree, until the mainstream "gets
it," change in the world will not occur. These days, Philip Whiteman
Jr., Northern Cheyenne, and Lynette Two Bulls, Lakota, are doing
their best to help the mainstream "get it." The good news
is that they do, and are asking for more.
Taking the concept of the medicine wheel and universal principles
of spirit, Whiteman and Two Bulls developed the Medicine Wheel Model
and have taken it on the road. Their program has nothing to do with
religious practice and everything to do with helping people deal
with stress, decisions, and how to identify thought processes that
interfere with their lives.
Linear thinking versus circular thinking are explored in the
program, as is the hierarchy inherent in American business and life.
"With linear thinking, we rely on logic, institutions, and others
to try to protect ourselves. Circular thinking originates from the
earth, the universe, and the Creator; we are all connected and all
safe," Two Bulls explained at a recent conference. "The Medicine
Wheel Model is about social change; it's about having to look internally
before you can work externally. We teach ways in which you can stay
connected to your own spirit and community, while maintaining that
connection to creator, that guide within you, that healing and wellness.
You can reconnect back to it, and the healing comes from that."
There are other programs based on the Medicine Wheel, but Whiteman
and Two Bulls' program is uniquely designed for all people. Participants
learn or relearn that without a spiritual basis, linear thinking
interferes with the natural ability to experience life and emotions
in a full and complete way. From the youth in the annual Northern
Cheyenne Fort Robinson Spiritual Run, to veterans' organizations,
schools, women's groups, and more, people of all races are learning
how colonization and generational trauma affects thoughts and actions.
Misty Thomas, director of Santee Sioux Tribe's Dakota Tiwahe
Social Services Program received her training certification in the
Medicine Wheel Model two years ago. Working now with a national
program for foster care, Thomas said, "We are developing a culturally
appropriate method to work with Native families involved in foster
care, and incorporating pieces of the Medicine Wheel Model into
Thomas's enthusiasm comes from her own participation with the
Medicine Wheel Model. "I experienced tremendous personal growth
and it changed me forever," she said.
An increasing number of businesses and groups are calling upon
the Medicine Wheel Model in hopes of change. During a recent presentation
in upstate New York, Whiteman addressed the crowd and gently helped
attendees see that in order to change, new ideas must be introduced.
"Your environment dictates your thoughts, and you can't know what
you don't know," he said.
Whiteman took participants on a journey into spirit and emotion.
He described how everyone in America has experienced generational
trauma and has fallen victim to Stockholm Syndrome, a state of mind
in which victims embrace a way of life that is hurting them. From
one physical exercise to the next, Whiteman and Two Bulls explain
that through the teachings of the medicine wheel, everyone can return
to circular thinking, to a place of spirit rather than ownership,
dominance, eminent domain and dominion.
Whiteman told the audience, "Lace your fingers and bring your
palms together. See where your thumb is. Now do it again, but reverse
the placement of your thumb and fingers." Participants report that
it feels awkward, wrong, uncomfortable. "That's what change feels
like," he said.
On July 22, staff members of Green Peace attended a Medicine
Wheel Model training conference, and within only two days, a shift
in thinking became evident. Brainstorming took on a more positive
direction as Whiteman told them, "You can't expect things to be
different if you continue to do things the same way."
Green Peace staff member Kim Marks said, "It's good to step
back and examine how you are communicating," and that, "It is a
different training style than I am used to. It takes a while for
the information to click."
In another recent two-day presentation, people went from, "Well,
that's your way, this is ours," to "We will take some of what you
offer and incorporate it," to that moment when they recognized how
the dominant culture has squelched their creativity and ability
to find peace. By the end of the presentation, participants are
yearning to break free, and are ready to take these teachings back
into the workforce.