Vol 10 No 1 (2018)
Articles

“The Very Future of our Nations” : How Aboriginal Midwifery Represents a Practical Model for Utilization of Traditional Knowledge

Bob Cole
Athabasca University
Bio
Published July 2, 2017

Abstract

For thousands of years First Nations peoples have been delivering prenatal, childbirth, and post-partum care to their own people. Over time, an extensive knowledge of plant resources and properties of plants developed into a comprehensive ethnobiological knowledge base of herbal remedies and traditional medicines. This knowledge includes various medicinal effects of plants, how to prepare them, and ceremonial uses, collectively forming the basis of Traditional aboriginal midwifery. Today, some of the wisdom of traditional aboriginal midwifery has been shared with and adopted by western health practitioners, in particular, modern midwives in North America. However, with European contact, aboriginal midwifery and Traditional Knowledge suffered terrible losses. With the onset of western medicalized birthing practices, aboriginal midwifery was systematically dismantled, even outlawed in some cases. Attempts to discredit traditional midwifery practice as archaic and dangerous were highly successful, though disingenuous. The recent return of midwifery to North America through grassroots initiatives, including the licensing of modern midwives and establishment of traditional aboriginal birthing centres, has set an excellent example for how healthcare can and should be delivered to Canada’s First Nations. This example includes respect for and inclusion of Traditional Knowledge in policy development and practice protocols.For thousands of years First Nations peoples have been delivering prenatal, childbirth, and post-partum care to their own people. Over time, an extensive knowledge of plant resources and properties of plants developed into a comprehensive ethnobiological knowledge base of herbal remedies and traditional medicines. This knowledge includes various medicinal effects of plants, how to prepare them, and ceremonial uses, collectively forming the basis of Traditional aboriginal midwifery. Today, some of the wisdom of traditional aboriginal midwifery has been shared with and adopted by western health practitioners, in particular, modern midwives in North America. However, with European contact, aboriginal midwifery and Traditional Knowledge suffered terrible losses. With the onset of western medicalized birthing practices, aboriginal midwifery was systematically dismantled, even outlawed in some cases. Attempts to discredit traditional midwifery practice as archaic and dangerous were highly successful, though disingenuous. The recent return of midwifery to North America through grassroots initiatives, including the licensing of modern midwives and establishment of traditional aboriginal birthing centres, has set an excellent example for how healthcare can and should be delivered to Canada’s First Nations. This example includes respect for and inclusion of Traditional Knowledge in policy development and practice protocols.