The mirror of the medicine wheel

Musician's last column reflects on Native American philosophy

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2008

So the reign of Hooligan is coming to a close. For some, that is good news, for others it is not. As a writer for the Hooligan from its first pages, I've been privy to a spectrum of comments from readers who have hated it and slammed it, and those who have loved it and supported it.

From these comments I am reminded of how varied our tastes are as humans and how attached we get to our perspectives. This shows up in arguments, politics, religion, art and, yes, even in music.

From this I am reminded of the medicine wheel, as explained by Hyemeyohsts Storm, author of "Seven Arrows," and its relationship to the talking circle.

The wheel, often appearing as a circle of stones, is used in many Native American cultures for healing and teaching, among other things.

Storm explained that when a rock is placed in the middle of a talking circle, each person in the circle views the rock from a different perspective, depending on where he or she sits. Each is able to describe the shading and contours and facets of the rock from a perspective that no one else can see from their unique vantage point.

In the same way, when an issue is put into the circle, it is viewed by each person from his or her own perspective and each shares a personal view and listens to the views of others to understand and "see" all the facets of the issue.

Our founding fathers built this concept into the First Amendment of the Constitution believing that all sides of a story were important and all perspectives were valuable.

Free speech not only allows us to say what we want, but introduces us to the perspectives of many, which, in effect, help us see the bigger picture.

The perspectives of the most poetic and the most raunchy, the loudest and the quietest, the pretty and the not-so-pretty. All of it.

So just to bring it around, I'd like to go out on this, my last column for Hooligan, with a verse from "Seven Arrows," in which Storm writes:

"In many ways this circle, the Medicine Wheel, can best be understood if you think of it as a mirror in which everything is reflected. 'The Universe is the mirror of the people,' the old teachers tell us, 'and each person is a mirror of every other person.'"

• Teri Tibbett is a writer and musician living in Juneau. Her radio show, "Global Edge," can be heard on Sundays from 10 p.m. to midnight on KRNN, 102.7-FM, or She can be reached at

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