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November is Native American Heritage Month, and you can celebrate the month and support colleagues by adding an icon to your email signature.

The new icon depicts a Medicine Wheel — a significant Native American symbol for health and healing.

The meanings of the Medicine Wheel

Sometimes referred to as the Sacred Hoop or Sun Dance Circle, the Medicine Wheel is a sacred symbol used for health and healing traditions by Native American tribes. It is depicted in art, objects and artifacts, or is a physical construction on the land made of objects such as dried buffalo or elk hide and dyed porcupine quills.

The Medicine Wheel is often composed of four colors: black, white, yellow and red. These represent the Four Directions (East, South, West and North), Father Sky, Mother Earth and Spirit Tree, which symbolize aspects of health and the cycles of life. The Medicine Wheel also represents all human races, and the life path and health of all human beings.

Different tribes interpret the medicine wheel in various ways, including:

  • Stages of life: birth, youth, adult (or elder), death
  • Seasons of the year: spring, summer, winter, fall
  • Aspects of life: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical
  • Elements of nature: fire (or sun), air, water, and earth
  • Animals: Eagle, Bear, Wolf, Buffalo and many others
  • Ceremonial plants: tobacco, sweet grass, sage, cedar

Movement in the Medicine Wheel and in Native American ceremonies is circular, and typically in a clockwise or “sun wise” direction. This helps to align with the forces of Nature, such as gravity and the rising and setting of the Sun.

The significance of the Medicine Wheel is also recognized in the name of the Indian Health Pathway’s social network, the Medicine Wheel Society. The organization is open to both Native and non-Native medical students and aims to promote American Indian, Alaska Native and Indigenous culture, education and advancement in healthcare and medicine.

Native American Heritage Month email signature

Celebrate Native American heritage and support your colleagues by adding an icon to your UW Medicine email signature.

Native American Heritage Month email signature

Visit the UW Medicine brand site to download the signature. Follow the instructions below to add the signature to your Outlook email.

Add a signature to messages via Microsoft Outlook

If you need instructions on how add an email signature, visit one of the following Microsoft Office support pages.

A special thank you to Millie Kennedy (Tsimshian), Tribal Liaison for the Indian Health Pathway, Office of Healthcare Equity, who suggested the idea of depicting a Medicine Wheel in the email signature graphic to the Cultural Observances Implementation Committee.