working with traditional elders in May of 1998, a circle of DinÃ©
(Navajo) grandmothers raised concerns about the threat (and
consequences) of losing the knowledge of traditional natural childbirth
practices among their people.
It is a well-known and documented fact that Native Americans living
on reservations have some of the highest rates of malnutrition, birth
defects, fetal alcohol syndrome, and teenage pregnancies in the
Traditional midwives have preserved time-tested ways of caring for
women and children during the childbearing cycle, implementing
techniques that are recognized as the safest, most sensible and
practical techniques in use. Current midwifery practices integrate
traditional ways with research and technology to provide services that
can reduce medical complications, child abuse and neglect.
With this project, the IPP traveled amongst the DinÃ© of the Navajo
Reservation, honoring the concerns of these silver-haired grandmothers
using video and audio equipment to record in their words, methods,
foods and medicinal botanicals that have sustained their culture over
countless generations. As most of these midwives and healers are in the
nineties, it is critical to document their knowledge while there is
still time. Such documentation has provided a means to pass on the
wisdom of these elders to their descendants, and to empower native
women to make informed choices about how to bring forth new life
without sacrificing safety and to embrace traditional practices.