To acknowledge that we, at Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, share this land with the First Peoples of our nation, four beautiful banners have been created, based on the teachings of the Medicine Wheel. These banners welcome people into all of our schools and administrative offices and they are a reflection of the great respect we have for indigenous people.
Students representing all of our Secondary schools collaborated on the banners, under the guidance of Elders and Teachers. The Medicine Wheel is divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant reflects many complex concepts including the four directions. Students from across our Board worked on the banner representing the direction in which their school resides. Each banner has distinct meaning:
The ‘East’ banner mirrors one section of the Medicine Wheel – the section reflected by yellow beads. This section represents spring, fire, rebirth and new beginnings. It is said that everything begins in the East. The East banner begins with rocks at the bottom which are representative of our first ancestors. They hold the earth’s wisdom – they are the oldest things on the earth.
It is where both the sun and the moon rise. It is where we are born. Children are represented in this section of the wheel – it shows a time of great learning.
Fire is the first of the four elements of the Medicine Wheel. The smoke that rises carries with it our intentions, prayers, and worries to the Creator. The Eagle flies in the East, following us all day and helps to carry our prayers to the Creator.
The Tree of Peace is rooted in our ancestors and reaches out to all life, reminding us that we are connected to all people and nature. The Tree of Peace sits on ‘Turtle Island’, as North America is called by the First Nations’ people.
The first sacred medicine is found in the East and grows on Turtle Island.
The Moon regulates all of Mother Earth’s water and reminds us that change is natural.
The edging of the banner has special meaning, as well. The lines at the bottom signify earth; the half-circle and the leaves represent the Tree of Life; the double line is for the sky; and the triangle represents our home – the tipi – and how we touch both the land and the spirit-world.
The ‘South’ banner mirrors another section of the Medicine Wheel – the section reflected by red beads. Red is an important colour to First Nations’ people. The colour of the blood of all people is red, which is a reminder that we are all connected.
The South section represents the heart, young adults, family life, and learning through experience. The banner illustrates a time in our lives when we learn to control our emotions.
Water is the second of the four elements of the Medicine Wheel. The moon regulates the earth’s water, including a woman’s water. The changing moon reminds us that change is natural; we must learn to accept change and to keep learning. Water also represents our emotions, our tears which are carried by Eagle to the Creator, who then gives us comfort. Our intentions are given to Eagle because he soars the highest and protects the sky where Creator lives. When men carry the Eagle staff, it symbolizes that men are meant to protect their families and their communities.
Eagle follows us all day to protect us. Eagle also carries a branch of cedar, which is the second sacred medicine. Cedar is a grounding, cleansing, protecting medicine, both internally and externally. For instance, a cedar bath will cleanse your ears of the words that hurt you.
The trim on the side of the banner has special meaning, as well. The triangles represent the tipi – our home; the two blue stripes are for water; the sun represents noon—as we are still early on in our life’s journey at this stage; and the eagle feathers are representative of leadership.
The ‘West’ banner mirrors the third section of the Medicine Wheel – the section reflected by black beads. The West banner represents loyalty, family and adult life; it is where parents sit. Eventually, our ancestors will come through the Western door to meet us and guide us to the spirit world.
The West banner, similar to that of the East, begins with rocks at the bottom, as rocks are the centre of the Medicine Wheel and are representative of our first ancestors. They hold the earth’s wisdom – they are the oldest things on the earth.
The wolf represents loyalty: loyalty to family, to education, and to community. Wolves mate for life and both parents care for their young. The wolf reminds us to commit to others and to cooperate.
Ravens signify intelligence, communication and respect.
The maple tree is considered to be the first tree and the leader of all trees. Its leaves represent the need to adapt and change. The leaves also remind us that our beauty will eventually fade and fall away and that we need to develop our inner beauty. Our true sweetness is on the inside and losing our outward beauty helps us to develop our humility and understanding. When we understand this, we will have gained great wisdom, like our elders.
The third sacred medicine is sage. It is women’s medicine. It clears negativity; it grounds you; it connects you with the Spirit. Taking a leaf of sage before a speech will put you in your own spirit to help you to speak words of truth.
The edging on the banner has its own special meaning: the triangles represents home; the split arrow represents peace; and the eye reminds us to have vision and therefore, wisdom.
The ‘North’ banner mirrors one section of the Medicine Wheel – the section reflected by white beads. This section of the Medicine Wheel represents wisdom and guidance. The North is where our elders sit and it represents the doorway to the Spirit world.
The banner begins with ice water. It reminds us that no matter how cold our world may be, there is life and therefore, hope. The Great White Bear takes care of our heavy emotions such as grief, worry, fear, and anger. When we give these emotions to Great White Bear, he puts them in the ice to be frozen forever – where they will no longer be harmful to ourselves or to anyone else.
The fourth Sacred Medicine is sweetgrass. The green of the sweetgrass represents all life. Sweetgrass reminds us to walk in balance, through mind, body and spirit, in order to stay strong. This is the reason that sweetgrass is often braided.
The Northern lights represent our ancestors as they communicate with us to remind us of the spirit world. We need to always remember that our ancestors are around to guide us.
Air is the fourth of the four elements. It is found in the North and is represented through the wind.
The edging of the banner has a braid of red, white, and black which is symbolic of the interconnectedness of mind, body and spirit. The circles reflect day and night and the passing of time. It begins and ends with the morning star, reminding us to make good use of the time we are given.