SUMMARY: Indigenous elders and colleagues explained how the Seven Sacred Teachings and the Medicine Wheel can benefit workplace culture and employees at all levels.

Seven Sacred Teachings at Work

The Seven Sacred Teachings share a message of traditional values, hope and respect for all living things. Also known as the Seven Grandfather Teachings, they are universal to Indigenous people from coast to coast although they may be adapted according to the community’s values.

The following Seven Sacred Teachings at Work and Medicine Wheel at Work have been developed with the guidance of elders Norman and Thelma Mead. Consider discussing with your team how each of these could be translated into relevant workplace behaviours in your work environment:

ZAAGI’IDIWIN (LOVE) • We LOVE and care for each other with kindness and compassion.

e.g. We recognize when someone is having a difficult day and ask how we can support them at work.

MANAAJI’IDIWIN (RESPECT) • We have RESPECT for everyone at all levels, including ourselves.

e.g. We carefully choose the words we use to describe ourselves and those around us.

DEBWEWIN (TRUTH) • We speak only the TRUTHs we know and will be sincere in all that we say and do.

e.g. We admit when we are not sure and seek clarification from others before making assumptions.

NIBWAAKAAWIN (WISDOM) • We value and share our own WISDOM and see and recognize the wisdom of others.

e.g. Our conversations invite participation of all in brainstorming solutions.

DABASENDIZIWIN (HUMILITY) • We show HUMILITY by seeing that we are not better than anyone else and acknowledging the value of everyone’s gifts.

e.g. We leverage and value the perspectives and expertise of all team members.

ZOONGIDE’EWIN (COURAGE) • We embrace change with COURAGE and will take some risks for the collective good.

e.g. We are clear on our shared objectives and our limitations. We support innovation within this framework.

GWAYAKWAADIZIWIN (HONESTY) • We show HONESTY by accepting who we are and when we need help, and by admitting our mistakes and being responsible for our actions.

e.g. We feel safe to share our mistakes and seek input about potential solutions from our team.

Translations taken from Seven Grandfather Teachings.

Medicine Wheel at Work

The Medicine Wheel, sometimes known as the Sacred Hoop or Sacred Circle, has been used by generations of Indigenous people for health, healing and teaching. Like the Seven Sacred Teachings there are many different interpretations. Using the wheel can help improve individual employee engagement and well-being.

Body: What do you need to be your best at work? Mind: Are you able to be truthful and honest about how you are doing now? Emotions: Can you be brave about who you are and the gifts you have to share? Spirit: What or who could help you bring a more joyful spirit to work?

While the Medicine Wheel may be interpreted in many different ways, most believe in its alignment with the body, emotions, mind, and spirit at all stages of life through all seasons. The elders shared that by being aware of where we are at on the Medicine Wheel, we embrace the circle of knowledge that helps us have power over our own lives and actions.

For some teams, the Medicine Wheel can also be used through sharing circles where people are safe and encouraged to be honest about how they’re feeling. Smudging at the beginning of group or individual gatherings may be used to symbolize the clearing of negative energy. All of this should be done with celebration and openness to help employees bring a more joyful spirit into the workplace.

We offer Miigwech to the participants of the inaugural roundtable on reconciliation for organizations who gathered in the spirit of Miinosewin (Ojibway for to set it right properly) – the Mike S. Schwartz Indigenous Collaboration.

Andrew Boryskavich
Diane Carriere
Donna Desmarais
E.J. Fontaine
Eva Wilson-Fontaine
Amber Harris
Priscilla Johnstone
Sherman Kong
Larry Lavallee
Norman Meade, Elder
Thelma Meade, Elder
Barb Moran
Tami Omeasoo

Additional Resources

The Seven Teachings

The Seven Teachings were given to the Anishinaabeg to live in a good way. Information courtesy of Seven Generations Educational Institute.

The Seven Lessons of the Medicine Wheel

Kelly Beaulieu, B.A., BSc Ag, of Sandy Bay First Nation shares the lessons and science of the Medicine Wheel. Courtesy of SAY MAGAZINE.