Yá’át’ééh- In many of our Native American communities, story telling has been a way of connecting with our ancestral knowledge and heritage. Many of our creation stories have been passed on this way and continue to be shared during special times of the season. In that likeliness, a woman’s birth is her child’s “creation story.” Throughout history, Native American women’s birth stories have been collected and told through the voice of on-lookers and non-Native historians. Changing Woman Initiative understands the value and power of a woman’s voice, which is why we felt it was important to create an opportunity for Native American women from the 8 Northern Pueblo’s to use their own voice to tell their own birth stories. These stories were created over a four-day period. What we hoped capture from these women’s birth stories was how they perceived the care they received and what was vitally important to them during their pregnancies. As a midwife, I have the honor of sitting with families during this delicate time and I hear many stories being woven together and have seen how empowered women become when they are able to birth in a manor that reflects their own beliefs and is respectful of their place as life givers.
We hope as you watch each digital story, you take the time to think about your own creation story. We hope that these stories inspire you to go home ask your mothers, grandmothers, aunties- how and where they birthed, you might be surprised what you learn.
Background on the participating mothers:
Christina Castro (Jemez/Taos/Ajchamen/Chicana): Christina is an educator, writer, activist and PhD Student at Arizona State University in the School of Social Transformation and Justice Studies. She is a wife and mother of two. She is passionate about issues of Reproductive Justice and Native women reclaiming their birth wisdom and sacred feminine knowledge. She currently resides in her ancestral homelands of Santa Fe, NM and loves being an advocate for social change.
Kena Chavez (Cochiti/Hopi) I decided to tell my story because I feel culture should be an essential part of a native woman's birthing experience. I am a mother of 3 and barely learning about OTHER birthing opportunities that could have been offered to me. I was taught that IHS was not a fit hospital to have my children and that I need to apply for medicaid to get "better services". I am regularly getting invited to AFTER birth ceremonies within the family and never was able to do any for my children. I am considered a "urban Indian" because I grew up in Albuquerque, NM, and learned my culture as much as possible during summer and breaks. I am barely starting to learn many meanings of our traditions and would like to share with my kids. When my friend Mary approached me about the Changing Women's Initiative opportunity I took it as a learning experience and embraced my sisters who welcomed me into their lives and shared their awesome, sacred stories.
I hope people watching get a sense of comfort knowing they can ask what different opportunities are available for them and that it is never to late to learn.
Kena Leigh Chavez is an enrolled member of the Pueblo De Cochiti, NM. She is also from the Hopi Tribe from the Village of Walpi and is of the Coyote Clan. Ms. Chavez is the Tewa Women United V.O.I.C.E.S. Program Manager, a culturally-based response to sexual violence and other trauma related to sexual violence in the diverse communities located in Rio Arriba and northern Santa Fe counties, and the Pueblo and Tribal Nations in New Mexico. Ms. Chavez received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from The College of Santa Fe and her Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice from Central New Mexico Community College, NM. Previous to TWU Ms. Chavez worked with both her Pueblo & Hopi Tribes. Former Social Services/ICWA Coordinator for Pueblo De Cochiti and former Project Coordinator for The Hopi-Tewa Women’s Coalition to End Abuse. Ms. Chavez is a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence. She has a handsome son, Yursh age 16, and two beautiful daughters, Skada age 11 and CeCeKa age 9. She shares her story openly in hopes that she can help at least one of her listeners.
Wendy Littletree I was a participant of the Changing Women Initiative digital story telling. For my 2015 New Year’s Resolution I wanted to try new things. I have been living on another reservation other than my own for the last thirteen years and I have managed to isolate myself. Part of me breaking through my shell was to create a Face Book account. My sister Sandy sent me a site of interest on Facebook and I noticed there was posting asking Native Ladies to tell their birthing stories. I answered the post and Nicolle Gonzales sent me the information to be a part of the DigiDreams experience.
Nicolle had simply asked the participants to share their birthing stories. Needless to say, it was not a simple request or question. To explain my birthing experiences was difficult. As a woman, I silently deal with my aches, pains, and suffering. I am conditioned this way culturally, religiously, and politically.
Before arriving to Buffalo Thunder Resort to meet the rest of the participants I would notice spiders where ever I went. I would stop and ask her what she needed. Later on I understood her visits to me. I know that I did not have a real agenda coming into the project. I was amazed to how this group of strangers shared common thread. We shared ourselves and our stories. What do you know? There is more to birthing than picket signs, finger pointing, political debates, and Bible thumping. This group of beautiful spirited women spun together this web of birthing dignity. I hope what viewers will get from the stories is how all parts of a woman (her upbringing, her relationships with her family and herself, her stability, her confidence, and her spiritual self) are her own birthing experiences. Yes, women can have things that are of their own. Thank you spider for visiting me.