Iniskim Umaapi (Majorville Medicine Wheel) – Vulcan County, Alberta - Atlas Obscura

Iniskim Umaapi (Majorville Medicine Wheel)

Vulcan County, Alberta

This remote 4,500 year old medicine wheel is one of the last of its kind. 

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The first stones of this medicine wheel were placed over 4,500 years ago, making it is one of the oldest known manmade structures in Canada.  It consists of a central cairn, linked to a surrounding circle by 28 spokes.

Sometimes known as sacred hoops, medicine wheels have been used by Native American tribes for health and healing. They take different forms, including paintings, artifacts, and large physical constructions like this one. The Majorville Medicine Wheel was created by ancestors of the Blackfoot Nation. Of the 70 or so medicine wheels in North America, this is one of only three of this form.

The site is still considered a sacred place, and offerings that include sweetgrass, sage, willow, cloth, and tobacco are regularly left at the monument. These offerings link contemporary people with their ancestors. Archaeological studies have found the site has been used for the last 4,500 years.

A visit to the hill this circle rests on is remote and offers very scenic views of prairie grasslands as far as the eye can see. A quick walk to the nearby ridge of the Bow River valley is just as rewarding as the circle itself and surrounding grasslands.

Take your time, find a lichen covered rock to sit on and consider how the scenery from this location may not have changed much from the time of the first peoples who started the circle.

Know Before You Go

The medicine wheel and surrounding area is crown land (government owned), but leased to a cattle grazing company. Access to the medicine wheel is permitted without notification to the leasee, but any exploration beyond this general area is only permitted upon agreement with the land leasee. Vehicles must remain on the designated road to the medicine wheel. Refer to Government of Alberta Public Land Access conditions for further information.

The last few miles of road (more of a track) is rough but passable by car if dry. Mountain bikes would be a good option for the last stretch.

Keep this remote magical place easy to access and respect the rules by staying on the designated road with your vehicle. You will be temped to explore further, but only do this if you have agreement from the land leasee.