This was one full day of Indigenous women of three Nations, Anishinaabe, Lakota, and HoChunk, meeting in Bemidji at the Northwest Indian OIC (the host organization). The meeting was co-sponsored by the Minneapolis American Indian Center. 20 Indigenous women attended. The program was started, as we start everything with a cleansing with our sage medicine and a prayer. I did the opening invocation and a Lakota woman sang some traditional Lakota women’s songs.
We began the session with discussions of the history of traditional childbirthing practices. Then, we spoke of colonization and the brutal repercussions that Native women experienced when we tried to practice our own spiritual and physical birthing and medicines. I gave a history of the resistance to that oppression during the 1970s by having home births, which was still against the law. There was midwife training by Katsi Cook a Mohawk midwife, who trained all of the native midwives during that time.
I directed a Native women’s program in Minneapolis then. We had underground meetings at that program where the Native women would learn from each other.
The next part of the USF curriculum was traditional teachings from two nations, Anishinaabe and Lakota.
We ended the session as we began, with ceremony. There was a commitment to continue this discussion and to take it to Indigenous women in communities as well as to the ones in prison.
An important element in this session was the equitable dialogue and shared teaching. No one was the “expert”. Rather, the women were in a shared experience wherein everyone learned and benefitted.