Winter is nearing, but water protectors camped in North Dakota aren’t letting up their battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Instead, they are taking steps to move their camps forward: The Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council is working with indigenous midwives to provide women’s healthcare.
According to a Facebook post on the Sacred Stone Camp page, the indigenous and allied midwives arrived last week. Though none aided in the birth of a baby October 17 at the camp, their presence shows the need for such professionals and care on-site. The post reads, “First baby born on the banks of the Cannon Ball River into the arms of the birthing mama.” (The page notes that the mother, with the help of some sisters, delivered the baby.) The healthcare clinic they are setting up is meant to be a “women’s space,” according to an interview by Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman.
The reporter spoke with some of the women who are creating this space for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its allies. Carolina Reyes, a midwife from the Tohono O’odham near Tucson, Arizona, says in the interview:
[T]he roots of this is—actually goes back to, you know, the recent history of healthcare for birth for indigenous women in North America, in this country, in particular, where, for instance, Indian Health Services had a policy of forcibly sterilizing indigenous women. From 1973 to 1976, more than 3,000 women were forcibly sterilized, even women under the age of 21. And so, that decreased—between the 1970s and 1980s—that decreased the birth rate for Native population in the United States of America from 3.8 percent to 1.8 percent. So that is genocide. And that cannot continue to happen. That is genocide of indigenous women, and just the same way that this pipeline is the genocide of our Mother Earth, and it’s the genocide of the river and the water that feeds us all, that nourishes us all, just as it did in the womb.
Currently, women who give birth in the Cheyenne River Reservation have just one doctor who comes to deliver babies, says Yuwita Win, another midwife who lives on the reservation. That physician schedules births around his time—meaning he often induces labor, Win says in the interview.
They go in, they get induced, and then they’re out the door. So it’s almost like they’re running cattle through, you know, the IHS. And it’s not right.
Watch the complete Democracy Now! segment on its site.