Rick Campbell used to carry 36 stones around with him in the trunk of his car. The stones formed a part of his art therapy practice, but they were very heavy to carry to each of the communities he visits.
Boulder-sized stones are now laid out in a grassy area at Boothroyd Indian Band, in a circle forming the Sacred Bear Medicine Wheel. Campbell is inviting all people to his Nlaka’pamux community of 120 residents just north of Boston Bar in the Fraser Canyon, to access the medicine wheel as part of his art therapy practice.
The medicine wheel at Boothroyd Indian Band is a collection of 36 white stones in a variety of shapes, laid out in a circle amongst the trees. The spot is peaceful even though it is flanked by the highway, the silence interrupted by passing semi trucks bringing goods up the canyon.
Campbell wanted the wheel placed here, a highly visible spot. He hopes to see people of First Nations communities he works with, and anyone from any community who could find healing through it.
“The medicine wheel isn’t a religion. It is a way of being. A way of being human. A way of connecting to all things,” Campbell said.
The wheel, which had a grand opening May 30, was created in collaboration with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Campbell hopes this collaboration will bring in people from other communities to Boothroyd, to guide them to a place of health and balance.
The building of the medicine wheel at Boothroyd is part of a larger push by the band to lead the way back to traditional and cultural ways and becoming a healthy community.
“Our frontline workers are working with clientele: elders, youth, children and families and promoting health and wellness in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual realms of caring for the self,” a news release from Boothroyd Indian Band reads. “The (wheel) consists of those four quadrants: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual and the centre represents the healthy self, community, nation and world or mother earth.”
For Campbell, who has led his community as band manager, councillor and chief, doing the work on this land is sacred.
“The connection is here. It’s easy to ground yourself and find that stone that you’re going to be comfortable with. You’re going to sit on that stone, reflect on your life, reflect on your past, present, future. And try to find that voice in yourself that is going to help you overcome whatever issue you have,” he said.
Every portion of the wheel has meaning, much of it layered and multifaceted.
The centre is the creator, the beginning of the universe we live in and the universe each person is made of.
The circular design represents the cycle of life and the idea that life is never ending and not beginning.
The four quadrants, each with its own colour, represents multiple things: a season, a direction, a component of nature, a phase of life and component of healing. For example, red represents spring, East, the earth, infancy and the physical realm.
Campbell begins his work with clients by making a piece of art — out of clay, a painting, collaging or other art form. They then use the art as a metaphor in order to find their position on the medicine wheel.
“In my art therapy practice, we try to get our clients to reflect on their lives: which part of their life has affected them negatively, (in) which portion of their life did they become ill?” he said. In his experience as a therapist, the pain, trauma and illness often begins with childhood.
They would then walk around the circumference of the medicine wheel, reflecting on their lives, the people around them, nature or other parts of their lives they want to reconnect with.
The stone they choose to sit on after circling the wheel, is ‘where everything began, where their traumatic event happened.’
The end goal is balance and respect for ourselves and ‘all the other things that can’t speak for themselves’.
Campbell said his experience with the medicine wheel is that it also instills hope, self-esteem and empowerment.