Monday, December 8, 2008

[U.S.] Northern Plains: Indigenous Women's Reproductive Rights and Pro-Choice Page

[For the complete original webpage which includes the artwork above and the all of the text below, please click here.]

Throughout history, Indigenous women have interacted with other Indigenous women through various women's societies. Traditionally, the matters pertaining to women were the business of women. All decisions concerning women's reproductive health were left up to the women as an individual, and her decision was respected, and was final. Oftentimes an Indigenous women would turn to other women within her society for advice, mentoring, and assistance concerning reproductive health.

With the imposition of colonization and Christianity, foreign values, belief systems, and practices were forced upon our communities. Within those foreign systems, decisions pertaining to reproductive health were made by the Church with little regard to individual rights. Traditionally, reproductive health issues were decisions made by the individual, and were not thrusted into the political arena for any kind of scrutinization. The core of decision-making for Indigenous women is between her and the Great Spirit.

Within traditional societies and languages, there is no word that equals abortion. The word itself is very harsh and impersonal. When speaking to traditional elders knowledgeable about reproductive health matters, repeatedly they would refer to a women knowing which herbs and methods to use "to make her period come." This was seen as a woman taking care of herself and doing what was necessary. Oftentimes women would turn to the women within her society that were the keepers of those herbs, medicines, and techniques for assistance.

Native Women's Reproductive Rights Agenda

"Empowerment Through Dialogue," a historical three-day meeting was held in Pierre, South Dakota, on May 16th, 17th, and 18th, 1990. More than 30 Native Women, representing over eleven (11) Nations from the Northern Plains came together in a collective decision-making process to form a Reproductive Rights Coalition. Their efforts resulted in an Agenda for Native Women's Reproductive Rights
Native Women for Reproductive Rights

The aboriginal people of the North Central Plains lived in, not only a democracy, but also a matrilineal society when Pierre Radisson, the first white person, visited the villages in 1654. The Native women enjoyed a life unknown to white women in Europe, being free to own their own homes, participate in decisions about their government, and have control of their bodies.

In the ensuing years, the People were herded onto reservations and today live in hostage status, suffering every deprivation and loss of freedom. Our grandparents were forcibly taken from their families and sent long distances to schools where the teachings and wisdom of thousands of years of our civilization were brain washed out of our grandparents' generation. The insidious erosion of identity, culture, spirituality, language, scientific, and technical knowledge and power created the chaos and violence in which we, as women, struggle to survive and live a decent life.

With knowledge and appreciation of our history, we fully realize our status in today's society, as we state our rights and aspirations as Native women.

Reproductive Rights Platform:

1. The right to knowledge and education for all family members, concerning sexuality and reproduction that is age, culture, and gender appropriate.
[1 through 19]

2. The right to all reproductive alternatives and the right to choose the size of our families.

3. The right to affordable health care, including safe deliveries within our communities.

4. The right to access safe, free, and/or affordable abortions, regardless of age, with confidentiality and free pre- and post-counseling.

5. The right to active involvement in the development and implementation of policies concerning reproductive issues, to include, but not limited to, pharmaceuticals and technology.

6. The right to include domestic violence, sexual assault and AIDS as reproductive rights issues.

7. The right to programs which meet the nutritional needs of women and families.

8. The right to programs to reduce the rate of infant mortality and high-risk pregnancies.

9. The right to culturally specific comprehensive chemical dependency prenatal programs including, but not limited to, prevention of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Effects.

10. The right to stop coerced sterilization.

11. The right to a forum for cultural/spiritual development, culturally-oriented health care, and the right to live as Native Women.

12. The right to be fully informed about, and to consent to any forms of medical treatment.

13. The right to determine who are members of our Nations.

14. The right to continuous, consistent, and quality health care for Native People.

15. The right to reproductive rights and support for women with disabilities.

16. The right to parent our children in a non-sexist, non-racist environment.

17. The right of Two Spirited women, their partners and their families to live free from persecution or discrimination based on their sexuality and/or gender, and the right to enjoy the same human, political, social, legal, economic, religious, tribal and governmental rights and benefits afforded all other indigenous women.

18. The right to give birth and be attended to in the setting most approprite, be it home, community, clinic or hospital and to be able to choose the support system for our births, including but not limited to, Traditional Midwives, Families and community members.

19. The right to education and support for breastfeeding that include but not limited to, individuals and communities that allow for regrowth of traditional nurturing and parenting of our children.

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