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).



Teen Pregnancy and Nutrition




The biological age for a “mature” woman is 18 years of age.

A woman of this age and older physically is able to handle the demands of a growing baby, along with delivery.

Realistically though, the best success is between the ages of 25-34 years old.

The uterus of a teenager is often not structurally nor functionally fully developed. The teenage uterus would not respond to the hormones produced naturally by the ovaries in the same way as a fully mature uterus.

The risks of a teen pregnancy are:

• Preterm birth
• Low birth-rate babies

The complications are:

• Infections
• Reduced intelligence
• Many babies born to teen-agers do not “catch up” as they mature.
o Requiring special attention
o Special schooling
o Special healthcare

Many of the problems of health care in Teen Pregnancies are due to insufficient nutrient intake.

The need for vitamins and minerals are at an all-time high for the teenage girl, add that to the demands of a growing fetus and the struggle between the baby’s needs and the teen mother’s need begin.

The struggle for nutrients can:

• Increase the uterine blood flow in the 3rd trimester
• Reduce availability of nutrients in the mother’s blood
• Limit the transmission of nutrients from the mother to the baby, which interferes with the baby’s development, and birth weight.

To compound matters, teenagers tend to fill-up on less nutrient-rich foods such as:

French fries, soda pop, chips, candy, etc.

The average teenager eats food too high in fats and salt, and too low in fiber and nutrients. Teens that eat foods that are processed and highly sweetened are at high risk for low birth-weight babies who are an elevated risk for disease and death.

Calcium-rich foods 4-5
Vegetables 6-7
Fruits 4-5
Whole Grains 8-9
Extra-lean Meats and Legumes 4-5
Quenchers 6-8

Teens tend to loose baby-fat quicker
Eat well for your own health and for baby’s
You should be gaining at least 24 pounds, if you were overweight before pregnancy
and up to 30 lbs if you were underweight prior to pregnancy.



Trust the Process

Hoksiyuhab Oti:

“The house for giving birth (having babies)”. It is my goal to develop a free-standing birthing center on the Rosebud Reservation. I also wish to have a converted bus to travel around to the various communities on the reservation and bring birth support to the individual women on the reservation.

Childbirth Education

This is a source site for information about infertility/fertility issues, preparation for pregnancy,  healthy pregnancies, a safe childbirth, and Post-Partum care, and breastfeeding. The Rosebud Tribal Education has its own services for educating woman on the reservation for Parenting Classes. These two are separate and yet linked groups of topics.

Here you will also find support for those who wish to assist women and teens in pregnancy, links to information about childbirth, and a portal for online short-course Childbirth Education, for those who cannot afford/have no insurance for a class or have no transportation.  There will also be a page of links for information online.

Childbirth is a normal process.

Long before doctors took charge, women were helping women to give birth.

These women were called midwives.