BIG HORN MEDICINE WHEEL, WYOMING
Wyoming fell into the possession of the United States like most of the Rocky Mountain stats after the Louisiana Purchase. Fur trappers were the first outsiders to explore the vast region, living and learning
from the Crow, Lakota, Shoshone, and other tribes.
The tides would turn on the Indians when emigrants followed along the Oregon trail and when the railroad began to lay
track and establish towns across southern Wyoming. During the 1860’s and
1870’s, Sioux, Arapahoe, and Cheyenne fought for control of the Black Hills and the powder River grasslands.
Located in north central Wyoming, the Bighorn National Forest is
a sister range of the Rocky Mountains. Conveniently located half-way between
Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park, the Big Horns are historical sacred site. No region in Wyoming is provided
with a more diverse landscape from lush grasslands to alpine meadows; from crystal-clear lakes to glacial carved valleys;
from rolling hills to sheer mountain walls.
The Big Horn Mountains extend from the plains and Great Basin area of Wyoming northward into south central Montana. It is
80 miles long and 30 miles wide. The Forest covers 1,115,073 acres. Elevations range
from 5,500 feet to 13,175 feet. Black Tooth Mountain at 13,005 feet.
The Bighorn River flows along the west side of the Forest and was
first named by American Indians due to the great herds of bighorn sheep at its mouth. Lewis and Clark transferred the name to
the mountain range in the early 1800's.
The Big Horn Medicine Wheel is a mysterious stone marking which was placed at the summit of a 10,000 foot mountain
called Medicine Mountain. It is the most famous medicine wheel in North America.
Described as sort of American Stonehenge, Bighorn Medicine Wheel was famous with local native tribes as a location for sunrise and sunset rituals as well as other celestial observations.
The medicine wheel consists of half-sunken stones in the shape of a wagon wheel.
The middle cairn (stone pile) is a meter tall with 28 uneven spokes radiating out to the outer rim.
The 28 spokes represent the 28 days of the lunar cycle. Each spoke is
36 feet long with the outer rim being 80 feet in diameter and 245 feet in circumference. Around the rim are 6 smaller cairns about a half meter
tall and open on one side. The center cairn and the one outside the rim establish
an alignment with the rising sun on summer solstice and another cairn measures the setting sun on the same day.
The other cairns line up with the stars Sirius and Formalhaut in the Pisces Constellation; Rigel in the Orion Constellation
and Aldebaran in the Taurus Constellation. The hollowed out center cairn contained
an offering bowl or some type of lost instrument used for celestial navigation. All
of these star readings fall within one month of the summer solstice.
Along with the astrological alignments, the circular pathway includes the four cardinal compass points as each of these
directions represent a nature season and stage of life where specific lessons are learned.
East is Spring and the place of birth and new beginnings; South is Summer for youth, strength and idealism; West is
Autumn for emotional growth and self-knowledge; and North is Winter for wisdom and life's fulfillment.
The number 4 also corresponds to the four sacred elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air. The Lakota oral traditions saw the four elements also relating to the four colors of the medicine wheel--
red, yellow, black and white which reflects the 4 main races of the world.
No one knows for certain how old the medicine wheel is but these astrological alignments represent a profound understanding
of seasonal and celestial navigation. Researchers believe the relationships between
sunrise and sunset of the summer solstice and the rising of prominent summer stars has a correlation to Star Nations and Star
This site has a long lineage of traditions among the Plains Indians and other tribes in the Rocky Mountains. The Crow, Arapahoe, Shoshone and Cheyenne all
have oral histories about the important ceremonies being held here.
Crow natives came to the medicine wheel as a place to fast and seek their vision quest.
Other tribes came here to pray for personal atonement, healing, or pay respect
to the great spirit. Chief Nez Perce came
to Bighorn to pray for guidance and wisdom to lead his people.
For Native American native people, the Circle represents the cycle of life. The
circle is a symbol of eternity with no beginning and no end. It denotes
the interconnect- ness of everything and a starting point for all otherworldly aspects.
Nestled in the foothills of the majestic Big Horn Mountains, Ten Sleep Canyon
is a huge limestone canyon that has a rich native history. This sacred canyon
had many spiritual places that the natives used for ceremonies, herbs and offerings.
There are many oral stories of a large Indian camp here that was known to early trappers and settlers as the old Sioux
Cloud Peak Wilderness is the centerpiece of Big Horn Country. Entirely above 8,500 feet, the
region is accessible by foot or horseback only. Shell Creek gushes from
the summit of 13,175-foot Cloud Peak and roars over Shell Falls, exposing
three-billion-year-old gray and pink granite.
On the east side of Cloud Peak itself, a deeply inset cirque holds the last remaining glacier in this range. Several hundred beautiful lakes cover the landscape and drain into miles of streams. The forest is a mix of pine and spruce opened by meadows and wetlands.
The 192 foot Porcupine Falls drops in a horsetail in three or four
steps (depending upon the flow) into a large pool at the head of Diablo Canyon. The
trail down to Porcupine Falls is known as a power spot.
At the bottom of the trail is the pool formed by Bald Mountain Creek. Gold
miners found many sources for gold findings
in this beautiful area.