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National Aboriginal Day Greetings from MABC!

posted on June 21, 2018
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This National Aboriginal Day the MABC is celebrating the accomplishments of Indigenous midwives in BC!

 
In the last year Lisa Delorme has started a new practice called Colibri Midwifery, which is aimed at meeting the needs of the Indigenous communities in and around the Slocan Valley.

Read on to learn about Lisa's work and to see her powerful messages for National Aboriginal Day.
 
LD: My name is Lisa Delorme and I am a Metis Registered Midwife. I am originally from Saskatchewan but now make my home in Sinixt Territory in the West Kootenays.  I was always attracted to traditional aspects of living, both culturally and in relation to being in connection with the earth. I wanted to be a midwife ever since I was a teenager. I think I felt the calling because midwifery is both so rooted in our collective heritage but also, through the health of our families, so relevant and vital to our future. Although I knew I wanted to be a midwife at a young age I also knew that, for me personally, it would take some time before I was ready. In those years I had my two children, who are now 16 & 11, and spent a lot of time deepening my connection to my culture and to the earth. I graduated from Bastyr University in 2013 with a Master of Science in Midwifery and then bridged back to Canada through the International Midwifery Bridging Program at Ryerson University. I began practicing in 2014 and was fortunate enough to return to my home community in 2015 to work at Apple Tree Maternity. The providers and Apple Tree and in the larger community recognized the gap in maternity services for Indigenous families in our area and so in 2016, with the support of the Rural Support Grant from the MABC, I started Colibri Midwifery to attempt to address this gap in services.


EG: Why was it important for you to start this practice?


LD: In the area that I practice many Indigenous people are displaced from their communities and have also often lost some of their traditions around birth. These things are both direct consequences of colonialization. When people are having babies and building their families this is a time when they often start to wonder about their traditions and often mourn their loss of culture and/or community. For these families I think it is so powerful to have a connection with a maternity care provider who understands and will support them to find ways to create a pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience that is culturally relevant to them. For the families whose culture is intact I think that having a safe space to be able to integrate that is also very valuable and supportive. Finally, many of my Indigenous clients have a lot of distrust of the health care system because they have had experiences of not being listened to or being judged. I think that having someone they know, and trust can make their birth experience feel so much safer and we know when people feel safer they are able to give birth better.


EG: What are you enjoying most about working in this way?


LD: When I was starting my practice, I did consult with some Elders and one of them told me that the most meaningful aspect to this work would be in the shared understanding I would have with my families. As I mentioned above I am working with Indigenous families from a variety of traditions and ancestry, and so often our cultural lens or practices are not the same. Despite this I do find that there is a shared foundation and understanding that is really very powerful. For many of my families I think it is this shared understanding that allows them to be able to feel safe in their healthcare experience. Knowing some one trusts me who has not been able to find real trust in the health care system before is both very humbling and very rewarding.  When I see my families welcoming their children in with cultural connection I sense it is both making our ancestors and the ancestors of this land happy and is also bringing healing to the members of the family and future generations.


EG: Is there anything more you would like to say to the membership for National Aboriginal Day?


LD: It is vital that we work to provide more culturally safe and appropriate maternity care for Indigenous families. This means prioritizing the education of Indigenous midwives and finding ways to create education options that work for Indigenous students. It means bringing birth back home to Indigenous communities who are currently being evacuated to give birth. It also means advocating for and opening spaces for Indigenous midwives to practice within Indigenous communities. This may mean some sacrifice to the stability of existing non-Indigenous practices. Where I practice it is rural and so there is often concern about the sustainability for all the maternity care providers. However, it was recognized that Indigenous health needs to be a priority and so we found creative ways to make it work. I would like to see all BC communities take up that challenge. If there are no Indigenous midwives able to practice in your community make connections for your clients to other community resources. Find Elders, Indigenous doulas, Indigenous family support groups, get to know your Aboriginal patient navigator and you can use these as a foundation of connection for your families. Finally, it is crucial that non-Indigenous midwives take stock and make sure that they are practicing in a culturally safe manner. If you have not taken an Indigenous cultural safety course in the past couple of years I would invite you, in solidarity on National Aboriginal Day, to prioritize that for 2018. In the coming years I would like to see BC Midwives find ways in each area of the province to support Indigenous families to reclaim birth in their homes and communities!

Melanie Mason graduated from the UBC Midwifery Program this spring! Melanie
has worked to raise awareness of the concerns of Indigenous students.

Continue reading to learn about Melanie and to see her message to you for National Aboriginal Day.
 

MM: Hello fellow midwives, my name is Melanie Mason and I recently graduated from the University of British Columbia Midwifery program. I identify as a Red River Metis woman who grew up in Anola, Manitoba, which is a small, rural community east of Winnipeg. After completing my undergrad at the University of Manitoba, I relocated to Victoria and began my journey of becoming a midwife. It was during this time that I found out that my great, great grandmother was an Indigenous midwife in northern Manitoba. I also found that my traditional culture was a strong driving force in my journey to becoming an Indigenous registered midwife.

EG: Graduating from midwifery school is a huge accomplishment!! What do you feel has been your greatest accomplishment during your time as a student?


MM: I feel my greatest accomplishment as a midwifery student has been to raise awareness in our program about Indigenous history in Canada, the current issues facing our Indigenous communities, and the need to foster a supportive culture for Indigenous midwifery students in our program. However, I share this accomplishment with the many other hard working Indigenous students and allies in our program. 


Photo Credit: Carlie Sanford

EG: Aside from the usual post-student "get a solid night's rest" kinds of goals, what other hopes or dreams are you holding for yourself now? What do you see for yourself at a later season along your midwifery path? 


MM: My immediate goal is to increase the provision of midwifery services to the Indigenous communities in and around Victoria. My understanding is that I will be the first self-identified Indigenous registered midwife working for and along side those communities. 


My hopes and dreams align with the MABC Committee for Indigenous Birthing and the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives – to have an Indigenous midwife providing care in every Indigenous community in urban, rural and remote settings. Through my involvement with both of these important organizations, I have gained valuable insight and leadership experience that I hope to use going forward in pursuit of my goals and the dream of increasing the number of Indigenous midwives and creating a safe future for Indigenous birthing people, their families and communities. 
 

EG: Is there a last message you would like to share with the membership for National Aboriginal Day?


MM: As midwives I know you all share the common passion of providing culturally safe care to your clients, families, and communities you serve. If you have not done so already, I would strongly recommend taking the San'yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training produced by the Provincial Health Services Authority of BC. I found the training to be a vital part of my learning and preparation for providing culturally safe care to Indigenous clients. If you have already completed the San'yas training, I would recommend reading the "Calls to Action" and "Executive Summary" from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. As Senator Murray Sinclair has said "education is what got us here and education is what will get us out."

 
 

Take the challenge! The past 150 years of Canada's relationship with Indigenous peoples has been characterized by broken promises, mistreatment and misunderstanding.

Become an ambassador of change and reconciliation now — let's listen to, learn from, and grow with each other to make Canada a better country for us all.  

In friendship,

Evelyn George, RM
Indigenous Lead
Midwives Association of BC
evelyn.george@bcmidwives.com
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