Medicine wheels, or sacred hoops, are stone structures built by certain Indigenous peoples of the Americas apparently for astronomical, ritual, healing, and teaching purposes. They were constructed by laying stones in a particular pattern on the ground. Most medicine wheels resemble a wagon wheel, having a center cairn of stones surrounded by an outer ring of stones, and then "spokes," or lines of rocks, coming out from the cairn. The outer rings could be large, reaching diameters of as much as 75 feet. They were often constructed at or near the summit of a hill.
Medicine Wheel in Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming
Medicine wheels are found in the prairie regions of Canada and the United States, such as Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Wyoming, and Montana. They were commonly used by the Ojibwa and Anishinaabe peoples, some structures dating back as much as 4,500 years. Some, such as the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, continue to be used by Native Americans for religious ceremonies.
While the original purpose of these stone structures is not known with certainty, they provide an intriguing link to the lives and culture of those who lived long ago.