Centuries-old Medicine Wheel draws thousands to national forest in Wyoming | Montana News

For centuries, the Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming has been used for prayer and vision quests by the Crow Tribe and other Native people.

Visitors come from all over the world to hike up Medicine Mountain to the wheel, a National Historical Site managed by the Bighorn National Forest with guidance from the Medicine Wheel Alliance.


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Charles Yarlott at the Medicine Wheel at sunrise on Summer Solstice.



On the Summer Solstice, June 20, many people are expected to arrive early to view the sun as it lines up with one of the seven cairns at the wheel.

Who made it?

The Medicine Wheel’s origins are uncertain.

Many believe it was built by the Sheepeaters, a Shoshone band whose name is derived from their expertise at hunting mountain sheep.

The most common Crow story is about how Burnt Face, a handsome young Crow, fell into the fire while entering his mother’s tepee. Embarrassed of his severely burned face, he left his people to live in the mountains, where he built the Medicine Wheel based on instructions he received in a vision from the Sun.

Red Plume, a Crow chief during the time of Lewis and Clark, found great spiritual power at the Medicine Wheel.

At 9,462 feet elevation, on a clear day the Medicine Wheel provides a view of the Teton Mountains more than 100 miles away. It sits halfway between Lovell and Sheridan, Wyoming, just a dozen miles from the Montana border.

The Crow people believe morning is the most powerful time, Crow tribal member Patrick Hill said. That’s why so many travel to see the sun rise at the Medicine Wheel.

“They smoke and face the sun and thank the creator for the day and what it brings,” Hill said.

Scott Bear Don’t Walk, a member of the Crow Tribe who grew up in Billings, said his father took the family on pilgrimages to the wheel.

“The Medicine Wheel is a powerful place. We would ask my father, ‘Who made this?’ He would say, ‘The ancient ones,’” Bear Don’t Walk said.

“Ancient ones” in the Crow language translates to ancestors.


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Visitors leave prayer flags and offerings on…

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