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American Indian/Alaska Native Commissioned Officers Advisory Committee Logo
The American Indian/Alaska Native Commissioned Officers Advisory Committee (AI/ANCOAC) logo depicts a medicine wheel adorned with eagle feathers. Within the medicine wheel are four quadrants, each with graphics representative of tribal regions and the Indian Health Service.
The Medicine Wheel represents spirituality and symbolizes the individual experiences endured in life. Medicine Wheel teachings focus on a healthy lifestyle, which is communicated via various First Nations belief themes as: the great circle of life; the center of the circle; the natural world was created in groups of four; the interconnectedness of all things in the natural world; harmony and balance reigns supreme; and the eternal fire. Everything in the wheel is related; either within an individual being, between beings, or between beings and the environment.
The four quadrants within the Medicine Wheel are interdependent and need to be balanced to maintain harmony. The quadrants represent the:
  • four phases of life - infancy, adolescence, adulthood, elderly;
  • four senses of being - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual;
  • four cardinal directions - east, south, west, and north;
  • four winds;
  • four seasons;
  • four sacred colors - yellow, red, black, and white;
  • four races of people - Eastern Asian-Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Africans, and the Euro-, Middle Eastern and South Asian;
  • four types of creatures that breathe - those that fly (birds), those that are four-legged (the buffalo), those that are two-legged (man) and those that crawl (insects); and
  • four elements - earth, fire, water, and air.
The directions in the wheel are always used in a clockwise direction to signify the movement of the sun as it rises, moves across the sky, sets, and rests. Each direction signifies a different phase in the human life cycle. In the east, there is existence of physical being and birth. The south is the growth of mental development that occurs in the teenage years. In the west, we experience elements of the emotional self as love, happiness, sadness, or disappointments, which are developed throughout adulthood. For strength, as people age, they depend more on spiritually that was probably taught when young.
Eagle Feathers
The eagle feathers represent wisdom and knowledge as all animals and birds. The Great Spirit revealed itself through all these creatures and taught chosen humans sacred songs and dances, rituals and lore. The eagle is a symbol of strength, endurance, and vision. The eagle tells the story of life. It bears only two eggs, which represent the bilateral world: positive and negative, male and female, body and soul, and substance and shadow. The eagle feather is divided into light and dark parts. These represent daylight and darkness, summer and winter, peace and war, and life and death. The sizes of the eagle feathers tell the story of life; the large and decorated feathers represents male. The small and plain feathers represent female. The eagle feather serves as a reminder that throughout life, people will always have a choice to make regarding their dual natures.
Four Directions
1) Horse and rider represents the horseback riding tradition of the Plains nations. Most nations were quick to acculturate the horse into their lifestyle. Owning a horse, or several horses, meant a family was wealthy. In a primarily nomadic lifestyle, the horse was used for hunting, scouting, and moving camp or heavy items. On long trails, a rider would take a pair of horses, one ridden, the other led. The pair of horses would be alternated by the rider, often the owner, to make the journey and return. More recently, horses have been used for pleasure, sports, working cattle, and pulling wagons and farm equipment.
2) The feather and caduceus is the Indian Health Service (IHS) logo, which acknowledges the role of this Federal agency in promoting the health of American Indian and Alaska Natives. Many of the AI/ANCOAC officers are assigned to the IHS. The IHS was established in 1955 to provide health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Formerly, Indian healthcare was under the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs. Early IHS efforts were focused on the provision of basic public health services and determining the health status of American Indian/Alaska Native populations to date. Such efforts included environmental sanitation and efforts to prevent infectious disease. Now, the IHS, in partnership with Tribes, is addressing health issues important to Indian communities in IHS, Tribal, and Urban settings. The IHS strives to address the challenges and disparities facing Indian people today through health initiatives to improve the health and wellness of Indian people. These initiatives are Health Promotion/Disease Prevention, Management of Chronic Disease, and Behavioral Health.
3) The hummingbird with the rain clouds represents the Southwestern nations. Hummingbirds only exist in the western hemisphere and provide a rich supply of stories to Native Americans. This tiny bird represents and symbolizes speed, accuracy, and agility. It helped the Mojave through darkness to where they live today. When the earth catches fire, the hummingbird saves the beautiful land by gathering clouds from the four directions. It uses rain from these clouds to put out the flames. To some tribes, the hummingbird is a messenger of wisdom as it convinced the gods to bring rain, fertility, and vegetation to the land for restoration and purification. Therefore, today as an honor, the hummingbird is painted on water jars. It is a messenger of good things that when one is approached by a hummingbird you are suppose to tell it your good wishes or stories for it to pass on to another person. The bright colors on a hummingbird's throat come from flying through the rainbow in search of rain clouds.
4) The salmon, fisherman, and kayak represent the Northwestern and Alaskan nations and their subsistence lifestyles as fishermen, gatherers, and hunters. In southeast Alaska, the salmon, deer, and other plentiful foods permitted the Tlingits, Tsimpshians, and Haidas to settle in permanent villages and develop a culture rich in art. The Athapaskan Indians of the Alaskan Interior, on the other hand, became wanderers following the migrating caribou herds and taking advantage of seasonal abundance of fish, water fowl, and other game. The Inuit, like the Tlingits, depended upon the sea for life. However, a more hostile climate and fewer resources required a far different adaptation resulting in their unique cultural traditions. This highly productive maritime culture focused on the harvest of large sea mammals, particularly the bowhead whale, utilizing toggle harpoons and open skin boats as well as kayaks, sleds, and dog teams; it is associated with semi-subterranean houses and larger village settlements.
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