Ojibwe Color Wheel

Student will be able to recognize and understand the use of color and the differing types of color (i.e. primary, secondary, etc.) Students will be learning about color and color mixing as well as Ojibwe heritage.

Materials Needed


Art Materials


Activity Process


Begin with Ojibwe readings on the history of the Medicine Wheel. Discuss the meaning behind the 4 colors used. Compare these colors to artwork in recent history (i.e. Sunflowers, Washington Crossing the Delaware, The Simpsons). Talk about the multiple meanings that the medicine wheel represents; the various renderings out of materials, the places medicine wheels exist, and the many interpretations of the four quadrants (directions, seasons, medicinal herbs, colors of people, animals, precious metals, etc)


Explain that we will be recreating our own color wheels, and demonstrate using acrylic paints. What colors can be produced from the 4 in a traditional Medicine Wheel? Black, red, white and yellow. How many shades and tints can be made?


  1. Each student will have their own paper and paint to create their own color / Medicine Wheel. Using the traditional format (circle with X), students will paint in the 4 colors.
  2. On the border of their wheel, they will pain the varying shades and tints that these colors can produce. The goal will be to create as many as possible without using the same shade or tint twice.
  3. In a second painting the students are to choose a theme from the a aforementioned Ojibwe history and meaning behind the Wheel, and create an original design from that theme. However, the only color they can use will be the 4 from the wheel.


Present color wheels to class.This activity works as good intro Monochromatic painting!


Is the first painting using the correct colors and in the correct order? Are the mixed colors in relation to the colors on the wheel? Is the work neat / clean / complete? Is the 2nd painting using a theme from the discussion / using the correct colors / neat clean complete?

Vocabulary Words


This lesson could also investigate the various artistic renderings of the medicine throughout time by historical and contemporary artists. How does the wheel change? What are the meanings?

Grade Levels

Primary Content Area

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Language Arts


Social Studies