making it really hard for me to breathe. I'd forgotten about the pollen in DC at this time of year, and my allergies were really acting up!
I just returned from the DC area after attending the "Invitational Gathering on North American Indigenous Birthing and Midwifery" sponsored by the Indian Health Service and Health Canada. Approximately 70 midwives from across Canada, the US, and Mexico attended this groundbreaking event. The purpose of our meeting was to share information about our specific programs and practices and to brainstorm ways to return
birth to rural communities. Here in Alaska, as well as on many rural reservations and in rural Canada and Mexico, women must travel hundreds of miles from their families at approximately 36-37 weeks pregnant and wait up to a month or longer to deliver in a hospital setting. The reason for this is that there are no providers of obstetric or midwifery care in their home communities. These women are mostly very low risk. Their absence places a huge strain on their families as they are often not able to bring their other children, their partners must continue to work, and safe childcare is difficult to come by. Loneliness and worry cause additional stress to these women, and many mourn the loss of their children being born 'on their own land'...i.e...'all of my parents and grandparents have been born in Barrow but now my children must be born in Anchorage'. 'We no longer have our roots'..'How can we know where we are going if we don't know where we are from'. This sense of loss and displacement were a theme throughout the meeting. Model programs from Canada (the Nunavik model, the Nunavut model, and the Six Nations Birthing Center) demonstrated successful ways of providing these necessary services as well as training more indigenous midwives. We are now charged with taking up the baton and translating this to a workable model for the Alaska and other US Indian Country communities.
Other speakers at our meeting included Robbie Davis-Floyd (who I've had the privilege to hear speak on 2 other occaisions!) She is such a visionary and her description of "Post-Modern Midwifery in the Age of Technocracy" was very compelling. I was also privileged to hear again one of the women who prompted my initial foray into Midwifery, Ina May Gaskin.
(Yep! Look it's me and Ina May!)
I was incredibly honored to be invited to speak at this meeting. My presentation was well received and garnered several comments and questions afterwards. I truly felt that I was walking amongst the giants of midwifery.
During this program, Rita Pitka Blumenstein (A Tribal Healer and Midwife from Alaska and a woman who I am very honored to be friends with!), Martha Koneak Greig (Inuit traditional midwife and developer of many successful maternal child health programs across Canada) and Beatrice Long Visitor-Holy Dancer (Oglala Lakota midwife and healer and also one of the Thirteen Grandmothers) were honored by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian for their work in women's health and midwifery. It was a beautiful ceremony with drumming and singing and it literally sent chills up and down my spine. The honorees were given beautiful Pendleton blankets along with engraved placques.
After the ceremony Rita (who is also one of the Thirteen Grandmothers) wanted to go out for a lobster dinner so 6 of us piled into a cab and went to the Old Ebbitts Grill where we had a delicious dinner and were entertained quite well by our handsome young waiter. It was a great way to celebrate my birthday as well!
Our meeting was capped on the Thursday with a round table discussion on 'Women's Ways of Knowing: Lessons from Indigenous Midwifery Traditions' again at the National Museum of the American Indian. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this incredible museum, I would urge you all to go and spend a day. It is a wonderful peek into the people and cultures and beliefs of our native ancestors. And the building itself is an architectural masterpiece.
There were only a few hours of knitting during this trip. I was able to take the Metro and a short shuttle to within a half mile of WoolWinders in Rockville, MD. Luckily I went on Thursday evening, the store's knit&w(h)ine night! Within 5 minutes of entering the store (whilst perusing the large selection of Colinette and Malabrigo) Jackie the owner offered me a glass of merlot...I said 'heck yeah, who in their right mind would turn down a glass of wine?" to which she replied "my sentiments exactly, honey, you're gonna fit right in here!" After making a few purchases of mmmmMalabrigo and a Dale pattern booklet, I settled right in and knitted and chatted with the regulars. I made quite a bit of progress on Soleil in a straw colored silk/viscose blend (Katia's 'Fanny'). Three hours and many laughs later, Jackie dropped me off right at the metro.
I was back at home late on Friday. I just have to show you the beautiful sign Grandma Clara made to welcome me home!
Isn't that the sweetest thing you ever saw!
I've spent the rest of the weekend doing laundry, catching 3 new babies (overnight call Saturday night/Sunday morning), and packing for my next trip to leave for the villages of Mentasta and Chistochina this afternoon. Right now, I'm waiting for 10am when the 2nd round of Elton John tickets go on sale. This is Elton's first concert in Alaska and as the 8,000 tickets for the original concert on May 28th were sold out in 53 minutes, he has generously added a second concert on May 30th. I'm crossing my fingers that we'll get on board this time! The last 'Big Name' concert (of my generation anyway) was Rod Stewart...over 10 years ago! The man and I are working 2 computers and 2 telephones to try for tickets. Wish me luck!
ETA: WE GOT 'EM! Whoohoo! Elton John Tickets for May 30th! I. AM. SO. STOKED!!!!
I'll be out of touch again now for another week. Don't think there will be easy internet access out in the village. However, the slower pace will certainly enhance the knitting time ahead so look for another couple of FOs next weekend. Until then blogbuddies.....