Indigenous Experiences of Pregnancy and Birth

indigenous birth final cover3

Price: $34.95

Page Count: 208

Publication Date: October 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77258-135-5

Traditional midwifery, culture, customs, understandings, and meanings surrounding 
pregnancy and birth are grounded in distinct epistemologies and worldviews that 
have sustained Indigenous women and their families since time immemorial. Years 
of colonization, however, have impacted the degree to which women have choice in 
the place and ways they carry and deliver their babies. As nations such as Canada 
became colonized, traditional gender roles were seen as an impediment. The forced 
rearrangement of these gender roles was highly disruptive to family structures. 
Indigenous women quickly lost their social and legal status as being dependent on 
fathers and then husbands. The traditional structures of communities became 
replaced with colonially informed governance, which reinforced patriarchy and 
paternalism. The authors in this book carefully consider these historic interactions 
and their impacts on Indigenous women’s experiences. As the first section of the 
book describes, pregnancy is a time when women reflect on their bodies as a space 
for the development of life. Foods prepared and consumed, ceremony and other 
activities engaged in are no longer a focus solely for the mother, but also for the child 
she is carrying. Authors from a variety of places and perspectives thoughtfully 
express the historical along with contemporary forces positively and negatively 
impacting prenatal behaviours and traditional practices. Place and culture in 
relation to birth are explored in the second half of the book from locations in Canada 
such as Manitoba, Ontario, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and 
Aotearoa. The reclaiming and revitalization of birthing practices along with 
rejuvenating forms of traditional knowledge form the foundation for exploration 
into these experiences from a political perspective. It is an important part of 
decolonization to acknowledge policies such as birth evacuation as being grounded 
in systemic racism. The act of returning birth to communities and revitalizing 
Indigenous prenatal practices are affirmation of sustained resilience and strength, 
instead of a one-sided process of reconciliation. 

This book makes a compelling contribution to the field of Indigenous and maternal
studies. The editors have put together a powerful collection that honours the spirit
of pregnancy and birth, and the strength and resilience of Indigenous women and
families. By acknowledging the ceremony of birth in relation to contemporary
Indigenous issues, such as forced evacuation and water protection, the editors
contextualize the layers of meaning embedded in returning birth to Indigenous
communities. This book serves as an expression of the creative acts of resistance
that have always defined Indigenous motherhood.

—JENNIFER BRANT, Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, co-editor of
Forever Loved: Exposing the Hidden Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
and Girls in Canada


Kim Anderson

Jaime Cidro and Hannah Tait Neufeld


Chapter One
Indigenous Pregnancy, Birthing, and
Mothering in Colonial Canada
Sana Z. Shahram

Chapter Two
“It’s in Her Health”: Historical Retrospective of
Generational Changes in Maternal Diets
from Peguis, First Nation
Hannah Tait Neufeld

Chapter Three
Culture, Identity, and Spirituality in American Indians and
Native People of Alaska Pregnancy Campaigns
Terry L. Rentner, Dinah A. Tetteh, and Lynda Dixon


Chapter Four
Bored, Broke, and Alone:
Experiences of Pregnant and Expectant
First Nations Mothers Birthing in and out of the Community
Jaime Cidro, Elisabeth Dolin, and Christina Queskekapow

Chapter Five
Bearing Witness:
Rural Indigenous Women’s Experiences of Childbirth
in an Urban Hospital

Rachel Olson

Chapter Six
Honouring Our Ancestors:
Reclaiming the Power of Māori Maternities
Naomi Simmonds

Chapter Seven
Revitalizing Traditional Indigenous Birth Knowledge
Rebeka Tabobondung

Chapter Eight
Birth Places, Embodied Spaces:
Tlicho Pregnancy Stories across the Generations
Leslie Dawson

Chapter Nine
Maternal Identity in Family and Community:
Mothers of the Stó:lō First Nation
Margaret MacDonald

Chapter Ten
Indigenous Birth in Canada:
Reconciliation and Reproductive Justice in the Settler State
Erika Finestone and Cynthia Stirbys

About the Contributors

Hannah Tait Neufeld is an Assistant Professor at the University of Guelph in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition. Her research focuses on Indigenous health inequalities, taking into consideration community interests, along with other environmental factors influencing maternal child health and nutrition.

Jaime Cidro is an Associate Professor at the University of Winnipeg in the Department of Anthropology. She works in the area of Indigenous social determinants of health, Indigenous food, maternal child health and most recently with Indigenous doulas and women who travel for birth.