Photo caption: Photo taken at the UBC Indigenous Grad. From left to right is Tia Felix, Tia's great-uncle Hop Haskett (crafter of her buckskin vest), gramps Earl Joe, great-uncle Chuck You, and mom Sheila Felix. Photo Credit: Simone Paul Photography.
Waytk-p (Hello), my name is Tia Felix and I have recently graduated from the University of British Columbia Midwifery Program. I am the eldest daughter of 6 siblings and I was raised on a rural reserve, Splatsin re Secwepemc. Splatsin is the most southern band of Secwepemculecw (Shuswap Nation) located in the Interior of BC.
Q:1 What moved you to become a midwife?
Everyone’s journey to midwifery is unique. Mine began before I knew that midwifery was in the cards. I attended my siblings births, supporting my mom since the age of 4.
While supporting my mother and other family members in the hospital I noticed there were always assumptions made about us. We were second class citizens and less deserving of the same care. Other patients, doctors, nurses, and social workers would treat us differently, staring at us like we had a target on our back, waiting for us to make a mistake that could be reported.
I lost count how often we were flagged by social services. Indigenous women and families were only being seen and not heard or respected by the healthcare system. I started to question this fear, mistreatment, and racism every time we needed to visit the hospital. These experiences and the belief that we deserve better shaped me into being an advocate for the health of my family and community which drove my passion of becoming a midwife.
I know that my family, community, and Nation deserve better than what is being provided. We should have a future that generations to come can look forward to, but we have to fight for this.
Q:2 What do you love most about being a midwife?
Midwifery gave me the foundation to build upon resilience, strength, and support needed for our families to heal and thrive. The scope and model of midwifery practice includes fundamentals like continuity of care, informed choice discussions, and choice of birthplace. This provides a supportive space to build a respectful relationship with the family and meeting them where they are at. Pregnancy and birth are the roots to healthy beginnings and it can be an extremely empowering experience when it is done right. In my language, Secwepemcstin, Knucwtn roughly translates to "trustful helper." I love that it speaks to the relationship with others.
Community-based practice has been vital to our survival and strength as Indigenous peoples, and our resistance to colonial policies like sterilization programs, birth evacuations, children forcibly removed from their families, or medical procedures without consent. When we collaborate collectively and provide resources to each family's unique needs, then we set each other up to succeed, both the families and healthcare team. I also love that I am able to blend both my traditional knowledge with Western evidence-based practice. Ultimately, I became a midwife to provide safe, holistic care to Indigenous families just as my ancestors did before me.
Q:3 What has the most meaning to you?
I always have a special place in my heart for siblings at births, they ask the best questions with the most fabulous facial expressions. Typically the questions are full of wonder, amazement, curiosity and they are straight up honest and hilarious! I hope that I have inspired a few future midwives!
Q:4 When you think about the future and your years as a midwife, what gives you hope? What would you like to achieve over the years?
I dream that every Indigenous family feel safe, empowered, and supported in their decisions when welcoming our future generations. I dream our women are surrounded by a respectful team that includes their partners, children/siblings, aunties, uncles, cousins, grandparents, Elders, Medicine People, doulas, lactation consultants, nurses, midwives, and doctors. We begin this process by providing accessibility to culturally safe care by increasing the number of Indigenous midwives and birth workers in every possible setting. Let us learn, grow and support each other in the work we need to do.
Q:5 What keeps you going?
My community continues to ground me in our ways of knowing, cultural practices, medicine, and language. When I am not catching babies, I cruise to the Interior of BC to spend time with family and friends and recharge.
Some of my favourite things throughout Secwepemculecw are gathering and harvesting medicine, fishing, and or listening to Elder's share their stories! Our stories are our laws, and our ways of knowing and being. More people are sharing knowledge around well-women care, reproductive rights, parenting, adoption, rites of passage, and practices that strengthen our families. All of these specialities are within the traditional scope of a midwife. I’m excited to have these conversations and see these stories evolve over the years.
“The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.” - Thomas King
Kukwstsamc (Thank you),