Aboriginal Midwifery: A Model for Change
Amber D. Skye, MHSc. Student, Department Public Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
This paper will discuss indigenous knowledge and epistemologies of health and well-being as essential practices to improving the health status of Aboriginal communities. These methods will be illustrated through the practice of Aboriginal midwifery and birthing practices currently being revitalized in Aboriginal communities. Indigenous knowledge of health, well-being, medicine, and healing practices have historically sustained the health and well-being of Aboriginal communities for centuries pre-contact.However, these traditional epistemologies of health and healing have been eroded through centuries of colonial oppression and the imposition of western scientific methodologies and legislation.
Through decades of acculturation, much of the traditional knowledge of health, medicine and healing has been lost. However, a recent resurgence of traditional Aboriginal midwifery has occurred in an effort to retain, revive and restore the indigenous knowledge of Aboriginal communities. The revival of traditional Aboriginal midwifery has resulted in the development of Aboriginal birthing centres that blend traditional knowledge, medicine and healing practices with contemporary medical services, to provide culturally significant maternal care services for Aboriginal women and families.
Currently, there are Aboriginal birthing centres and services in, Nunavut, Quebec and Ontario. The high quality of community-based maternal care, access to culturally significant health services – utilizing traditional medicine and employing traditionally trained Aboriginal midwives has shown improved outcomes, impacting community healing, cultural revival, and community capacity building. The traditional methodologies employed by Aboriginal birthing centres will be detailed to exemplify the significance of indigenous knowledge and epistemologies of health in providing improved health care services to Aboriginal communities.