Issues Part 4

The issues that affect Lakota Native women during pregnancy and childbirth in regards to: Racism, Sexism, and Oppression?

Infant mortality is higher in teen births, birth weights of their babies lower, the possibility of premature birth and the birth defects more common in premature births. Premature birth is higher in this sector of the population, often due to violence during the prenatal period.
The rise in teen birth Indian country is alarming. “46% of Native American mothers are under 20 when they have their first child, compared with 25% of mothers of all other races . The average age for becoming pregnant has become lowered from mid to upper teenage years down to pre-teen groups of 9-12 year old girls!

“Boys and girls who experience sexual dating violence are more likely to initiate sex before age 11 ”. These issues would not have incurred had the elder women counseled and instructed their younger relatives on traditional women’s roles and young men counseled and instructed by elder males, as was traditionally done.

There were two ceremonies that were traditionally done for young girls, that are now rarely found in today’s Lakota Society. The pivotal ceremony for girls was the Isnati ceremony. This ceremony was done at a female’s first menses. The young girl would have had the instruction given by elder women regarding her role in society, especially as to virtuous behaviors, her place within society, pregnancy, and childbearing. women regarding her role in society, especially as to virtuous behaviors, her place within society, pregnancy, and childbearing.

Sexual Objectification of Native Women

Rape and domestic violence in Native populations have been on the rise, but within the teen population is another aspect to be considered: gangs. Gang rapes and gang violence is high among native youth, and the female population is especially vulnerable. Although there is a high risk, in one study it was reported that those who perpetrated dating violence did not use a condom deliberately despite “high risk activity such as sexual infidelity, involving “trains” and multiple sex partners ”.

As well as gang related violence and rape, young girls are also vulnerable to date rape. In 1994, “92% who had sexual intercourse reported as having been forced against their will ”. Women ages 16-24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault. The violence that is inherent in this age group limits the ability of teenage girls to manage their reproductive health and also causes them to be vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases.

1996, the rate of reported rape among Native women was 3.5 times higher than other races. This is just the reported rapes! Add to this population, those who have been subjected to another type of criminal activity: Sex Trafficking. It has occurred since the colonial era. It is only recently that the United States Government has classified Human Trafficking as a form of slavery.

Most of the Sex Trafficking occurs in areas near First Nation Reserves (Canada), Native American Reservations, and Alaskan Native communities. To understand the particular vulnerability of Native women to Sex Traffickers, you only need to look at the historical perspective. In the United States, the military that oversaw westward expansion ‘targeted native women for sexual assault, sexual mutilation, and slaughter’, as seen in numerous accounts of that time.

Compounding all the aforementioned issues is the accumulated impact of the historical experiences creating a “generational trauma” with increased levels of trauma response and stress that passed from one generation to the next, over several consecutive generations. The generational trauma is thought to be the ‘major contributor’ to the level of ‘poverty, violent victimization, depression, suicide, substance abuse, and child abuse’ in Indian country today. It is also thought to be the reason for generational prostitution and child trafficking in the Native families.

Traffickers exploit the areas in which this population has vulnerability. One method is to portray the sex trade as a quick way to become personally empowered and have financial independence. Another is to target those who are homeless or have been impacted by poverty.

Exploitation is done of those with mental illness, have substance abuse issues, FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder), and those with who are Two-Spirit (transgender) are deliberately sought due to their vulnerability on the streets from violence, and are offered protection (Pierce and Koepplinger,3).

Next:  Part 5 – Conclusion (and references).

 

Issues Part 2

The issues that affect Lakota Native women during pregnancy and childbirth in regards to: Racism, Sexism, and Oppression – Part 2

With new contact with the European settlers, many natives also had died due to the diseases that came with the settlers. Millions of indigenous people died by disease they had no immunity in which to fight. Disease, along with the losses of lives through conflicts or being starved out, diminished the populous and allowed for further settlement.

Over time, some philosophical concepts arose that was thought to garner the concept of a congealed wholeness of this new settler society, such as the melting pot concept. It would never become fully congealed due to its not dealing with non-whites within the American culture, i.e. how do non-whites fit the ideal? Such as, black slaves or native people.

A second concept, cultural pluralism, was a belief where many cultures and communities “should be tolerated” and somehow would all fit under the umbrella of a somewhat fused society and therefore be protected. Cultural pluralism also did not work.

Instead, the concept of assimilation grew, that would cause all groups to conform to one single group, the now dominant white/Anglo-protestant group. “Gordon (1964) has called Anglo-conformity. The idea was that the various cultural groups were to completely shed the individual unique qualities they possessed with expedience and take on the dominant cultural ways”.

So when tribes began conforming to cultural / religious ideology of the settlers, they believed this could preserve their people. The south-eastern tribes learned this philosophy of assimilating to the dominant culture had no lasting value. They became victim to American policies of removal (the American Indian Removal Act of 1830 ), in order that the American people could take the lands upon which they lived.

Policies of American government continued to diminish the lands and societies of the native populous as the immigrants continued to pour into the new “United states”. In time, the political policy was to remove children from their family and culture, carting them off to boarding schools to forcibly assimilate the populace of the younger generation of native people to “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man ”.

Traditional Childbirth Practices

In Lakota native societies (as was true of many tribal groups), the extended family groups (Tiospayes, as it is called in Lakota society) each had their own midwives that lived within the family group, and healers that worked with women. This was attested by two interviewees whose grandmothers were practicing midwives.

The teachings of the elder women within the culture (regarding traditional childbirth practices) would have been transferred from elder female to a younger generation of females. But, over time, the use of midwives within the communities had dwindled as the older females died. In interviewing people the trail of lost information seems to have run out in the generation just previous to my own, in most communities.

The shift from the traditional mode to what we now see is due to the dominant culture forcibly removing any access to information about traditional practices through assimilation policies (i.e. Boarding Schools) and over time, access to midwives and healers through government funded hospitals (I.H.S.) policies. The final act of forced assimilation was to remove the right to spiritual practices and native medicine from the arena of health care, forcing tribal members to rely on doctors from the dominant white society.

See next week’s Part 3 – The issues that affect Lakota Native women during pregnancy and childbirth in regards to: Racism, Sexism, and Oppression?

Issues part 1

The issues that affect Lakota Native women during pregnancy and childbirth in regards to:
Racism, Sexism, and Oppression

In this report, I will discuss the diminishment of access to information for native female populations of traditional cultural / spiritual values regarding reproduction, healthy pregnancies, and child-birth. As well as cutting the ties to cultural education for young native females (and males/but not discussed herein) directly addressing gender-related socio-cultural information.
Today young native females in Lakota country find they are alienated from the cultural concepts of reproduction and childbirth practices that once were available from the elder women within their family groups.

The path of traditional information is fractured, if not completely broken in Lakota country. Also access to traditional midwifery is not available in many areas.

Young women find themselves (by necessity) having to deal with doctors and hospitals that are a part of the system of oppression that conquered their people and that had forced assimilation practices upon their elders. They have also heard about Eugenics Policies to eradicate native populations, by means of the sterilization policies enacted in the 70s through Indian Health Services.

Due to historical trauma, these young women find themselves re-living much of post-traumatic effects during the pregnancy time-period and at birth. The trauma affects the decision-making process as well.

Historical Background

Initial contact with European colonists was tenuous at best. The European white settlers had asserted its dominance from the onset of settlement. Through the lens of the European settlers, these indigenous people were inferior, only due to the differences in cultural systems of governance. Almost immediately the settlers asserted dominance and control over tribes in which they had initially contacted. The tribes were left with two choices: to conform or to resist.

The colonists viewed the encountered indigenous people as an inferior / savage group. This view was based upon the fact the tribes were not Christian (hence “savages”) and technologically not as advanced as their own (incoming) settler populations. The lens of the white populace was Eurocentric/ethnocentric due differences in ideological concepts such as the differences in view, regarding ownership of land.

The indigenous people did not cultivate the land in the same manner as the Europeans settlers. The settlers could not understand the concept of joint stewardship of lands by the native populous. In their ethnocentric mental lens white settlers conceived this ideology as a waste of good farming land, and of course their ideals were superior in that the land would produce food. Land to the settler, was a resource a non-movable commodity.

From this mental idea of superiority, the desire for lands in which to cultivate both their crops and cattle, the European settlers began to broker deals with nearby tribes through treaties . If they could not gain the land through a treaty, they forcibly took what they desired.

Next week: Part 2 – The issues that affect Lakota Native women during pregnancy and childbirth in regards to: Racism, Sexism, and Oppression.