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Health ᒥᔪᐱᒫᑎᓰᐧᐃᓐ

Cree thoughts on midwifery, then and now

Jan 4, 2020

Re: “Home Delivery” article (Vol 26, No, 18) 

Cree babies born on Cree land. Great news for a hunting society. Way to go – Cree Health Board (CBHSSJB) and the Nation for reporting it. We’ve come a long way – looking for a new normal after signing of the James Bay Agreement in 1975. Keep it up, we’re right behind you.  

As nomads in the wilderness, a shelter was pitched up with a fire burning inside, ready to welcome newborns at anytime, anywhere. Many a Cree child then was born with the mother’s moccasins still covered in snow or moss. Immediately thereafter, a newborn child’s crying echoed through the heart of the wilderness, for all to hear and celebrate. A traditional name given in regard to what season he or she was born, and all newborns were breastfed then.        

I was always amazed by the strength of our forefathers, portaging with ease 300 to 400 pounds on their backs. My late father born in the wilderness met mom while portaging; they spent their sunset years around Windy Lake. A lifetime of roaming around together in the wilderness, our home, and most of my siblings were born out there. Lakes were named after whoever was born there. One reason why our traditional names or last names are strongly connected to the land where we Crees have spent our eternal lives.

Childbirth on Cree land is something we all should celebrate and be proud of. I am and so is my family. So far, we’ve buried deceased family members on our ancestral lands except for those that died in residential schools or in the Sixties Scoop, and still, our missing and murdered women and girls – MMIWG. It’s a lifelong healing journey for all of us. I hope time is a healer for us – because we still have to deal with the forced sterilization of our Cree woman here in Quebec. These women can call RCMP, who are taking care of this file. We will be there to support you.  

We are evermore writing our own history. Just as we touched the earth here first, Chisasibi Cree grandmother Annie Sam was the first to touch the child. I hope history will remember – When woman stood together, on the same battlefield where our ancestors chose to make a stand, marked by a spear that was driven into the ground eons ago before any treaty was ever signed.

The event in Chisasibi reminded me of what took place back in April 20, 1996, in Nemaska Cree First Nation, when several adult students received from the Minister of Education – the first time in our local history – their diplomas, recognizing Cree as the first language and English as second. It was about time. Together we can shape events – not necessarily events shaping us. The young mothers in Chisasibi through CBHSSJB and with the help of a caring nurse (Jessyka Boulanger) showed us; we don’t have to be powerful to have or make changes in this world. Just be the solid rock that never moves even when big waves come crashing down around it.  

May the unconquered fighting spirit of our ancestors be in you always, and guide you.  Agoodaa-haa.

– Paul Dixon and family, forever in Windy Lake, Eeyou Istchee               

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