University Relations and Communications

Seventh annual Medicine Wheel ceremony helps vets come full circle

November 10, 2015 



Reno Charette, American Indian Outreach, 657-2144
University Relations and Communications, 657-2266


MSUB LI building
People gather at the 7th annual MSU Billings Veterans’ Medicine Wheel event that honors veterans and Native American college students.


Free and open to the public, the Veterans’ Medicine Wheel gathering will take place Thursday, Nov. 12, at 12:00 noon, in the Liberal Arts Building Room 148


By: Blair Koch


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES —  In traditional indigenous cultures, medicine wheels would be left for perpetuity. The one to be built on the MSUB campus in honor of Veteran’s Day will be left until December. However, the spirit of honor and healing going that will go into it remains just as steadfast.


On Thursday, Montana State University students, faculty, staff and the Billings community are invited to attend this annual Veteran’s Day event and help build a traditional medicine wheel in honor of those that have served the United States armed forces. This seventh annual gathering takes place at 12:00 noon in LA 148, then participants will go outside and construct the medicine wheel on the lawn between the Liberal Arts Building and the College of Education. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.


This year’s theme, “Coming Home,” reflects, in part, how the ceremony can help veterans returning from service at home and abroad readjust to civilian life—especially in reaching a state of “balance and harmony” after being in warrior-mode—as well as the larger community around them, said MSUB American Indian Outreach Director Reno Charette.


It’s especially important for Montana to give honor to their Native American veterans as the state ranks among the highest per-capita for service members, Charette said, and Veteran’s Day gives the perfect opportunity to do just that.


“I hope this is a learning opportunity for students,” she said. “That they will appreciate the veterans in their life. The feelings of honor and respect—Indian culture can really bring that emotion out—and I hope that they feel that because it’s real and I hope that they can be in touch with that, as well as gratitude and respect.”


In addition to taking part in the medicine wheel ceremony, participants and attendees to the event will also have a chance to hear from local veterans, including MSUB student Vanessa Santana, who was a member of the U.S. Army.


Santana, a member of the Purepecha Tribe, whose origins are located in what is now the northwestern Mexican state of Michoacán, will discuss what it is like to come home after giving service.


Although never being deployed for an overseas tour of duty, Santana says she understands what it is like to be away from family for long periods of time due to training missions, and that anyone in the service understands the “brotherhood and sisterhood” of duty.


“I hope the medicine wheel ceremony really piques an interest in the culture,” Santana said, who added the healing ceremony is not tied to her tribal heritage but she has gone through similar events in the past and they do bring about a feeling of closure and peace.


The Veteran’s Day event will also include Army veteran and Northern Cheyenne member John Robinson, who will discuss his time in the Vietnam conflict as well as an Eagle Staff Change of Command, special music by MSUB Assistant Professor of Music John Roberts and TAPS by the MSUB Music Department.