If there was a message Phillip Whiteman Jr. and Lynette Two Bulls could impart to fellow Native Americans, it would be to remind them of their worth.
"We are teaching them that they're sacred and valuable," Whiteman said recently, following a Rapid City workshop the couple hosted to train leaders for their Medicine Wheel Model. They reside in Lame Deer, Montana.
The model, Whiteman said, is the original guide for life according to Native people.
"We believe in the circle of life and the seasons of life and that there is a reason and a season and a purpose for everything," he said.
The colors of the wheel—red, white, yellow and black—represent Mother Earth, he added, and everything is connected. The philosophy teaches that the energy people put out to the universe is reflected back to them.
The couple, who have received several First Peoples Fund grants, including a 2005 Cultural Capital Grant and a 2007 Artist in Business Leadership Fellowship, travel the country and world presenting the philosophy of the medicine wheel and how it can be used in organizations and in everyday life.
Their most recent work has included the training in Rapid City, one in Las Vegas and work on a new storytelling CD.
"People come together to learn how we're connected to everything—how we use our Indigenous life in ways to help others in the area of wellness," Two Bulls said.
Whiteman said the Rapid City workshop was a "huge success," and drew people from around the country as well as Canada. The workshop is attractive, he said, because it offers people a holistic approach to being.
"This work is a life model, not just a wellness model," he said. "We focus on the spirit—reconnecting and reclaiming it."
Lori Pourier, president of First Peoples Fund, said that Whiteman and Two Bulls are incredible examples of artists who are fulfilling the mission and vision of First Peoples Fund today.
"We feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to partner with them through our grant and fellowship programs so many years ago, and it has been wonderful to watch them develop their business and serve artists all across the country," she said.
The couple said First Peoples Fund has been a great supporter of their goals.
"They have helped us to protect our work, and to make sure that it is shared with others," Two Bulls said. She said First Peoples Fund guided them as they released their first CD. Today, the couple is starting their own certification program to help others teach the medicine wheel philosophy they teach.
"We both teach a holistic way of life," she said. "First Peoples Fund sees the value of family and working together. So do we."
Whiteman said that through the Medicine Wheel Model, they are passing on an important message for others.
"There are seeds being planted," he said. "We're not teachers, but we're a vessel to carry the message. Native Americans can't afford to think within a box—in lines and corners. That would be devastating to our culture, to our people."
To learn more, visit http://www.medicinewheelmodel.com/.