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Greg T. tells the origin of the
Sign of Four
NDN - Shield "The circle is prominent throughout Native American cultures.  Fires are round, as are teepees, camps, the earth, the sun & moon, etc.  The Circle of Life is also round, with no beginning and no end - all life is continuous.   Shields (or hoop circles) are round to emulate all these patterns that the Native Americans saw in their everyday life.

"The shield design represents the four corners of the universe, or the four winds - what we commonly think of as the four directions of the compass.  The most common colors are red, yellow, black and white, though there are slight variations among different tribes.  Each direction has a color and a totem animal:

"EAST, the direction of Anpetuwi (ahn-PAY-too-wee, the day-sun), is represented by red, orange, yellow (any fire color) to symbolize the sun.   The totem animal is Wambli (wahm-BLEE, the eagle).   Anyone who has the power of Wambli can see things from high above, which means they have a broad perspective.  Wambli is also the winged messenger that carries our prayers up to Wakantanka (wah-KAHN-tahn-kah, the Great Spirit).

"SOUTH, the direction of warmer climates,  is represented by yellow, and sometimes green, to symbolize warmth and growth.  The animal totem of the South is Miyaca (mee-YAH-chah, the coyote), also known as prairie wolf.  He's often called the trickster for his cunning ability, but he only sees what is right in front of him.

"WEST, the direction where day becomes night, is represented by black.  This symbolizes the 'looks within' place (the soul, or place of introspection).   The totem is Mahto (mah-TOH, the grizzly bear).  He has great power, but is sometimes controlled by his temper.  Still, he represents supreme force with the ability to look within.   Sunktanka (shoonk-TAHN-kah, the horse) also live in the West.  He runs across the sky to make the rumble we call thunder.

"NORTH, the direction of the cold and snowy places, is represented by white.  This represents the snow and cold (of course), but also purity, and the place where Tunkasila (toon-KAH-shee-lah, Grandfather) lives.   The animal totem for the North is Tatanka (tah-TAHN-kah, the buffalo), which stands for strength and endurance against all odds.  He has great wisdom and protects the family.

"So the 'Sign Of Four' means that we honor all the directions (the animal and color that represent each one), and we realize that we are all one in harmony within The Circle of Life."

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