Indigenous women are dramatically over-represented within Canada’s criminal justice system and there is little public awareness on the complex and dynamic factors underlying their criminalization. The teachings of the Medicine Wheel have been used by Indigenous people for centuries as a guiding tool for learning and healing. The four directions of the Medicine Wheel represent an individual’s mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Contained within the wheel, the circle symbolises how health is holistic and cyclical, with each factor influencing one another.
The Medicine Wheel as a holistic health model recognizes the unique circumstances that incarcerated women face and the interconnectedness of these detriments as they impact successful reintegration back into society. Engagement with the Medicine Wheel teachings also encourages women to reconnect with their culture and contributes to their understanding of themselves.
The process of the Medicine Wheel begins as a collaborative conversation where individuals assess the four components of their wellbeing by rating their level of achievement on a scale from 5 to 1, ranging from “Struggling, Ready to Learn, Learning, Practicing to Achieving.” Individuals strive to reach the inner part of the wheel in each quadrant to achieve an ideal level of success. In addition, achieving balance in all four areas of the Medicine Wheel contributes to personal balance in all areas of one’s life. Balance is an ongoing process through life.
The Medicine Wheel breaks down the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual domains by asking individuals to evaluate the strength of their personal relationships, their ability to cope with past trauma, the stability of their living situation, their ability to follow-through with appointments and health check-ups, and their sense of purpose and confidence and connection to their culture, etc.
The use of the Medicine Wheel supports women in identifying the key areas where they want to put a focus on toward healing. EFry Case Managers assist each woman in developing a comprehensive individualized plan that facilitates their personal healing and provides an approach to providing resources and programs.
The Medicine Wheel serves as a cycle of awareness that provides women with direction and knowledge through their recovery. It encourages women to be self-reliant in their self-healing journey as personal experience is central to the goals and objectives that women will set for themselves. As a circular symbol, the Medicine Wheel seeks to break cycles of violence and abuse by tackling each domain of holistic health in order to achieve balance.