from the series: On Birth in the North: Reflections of Healing and Reclamation

by ᓂᐱ (Alyssa Gagnon)

Dear inninew,

I’m combining modern clinical practice and traditional setting. Letting go of divides, solidifying my ability, and registering my capability in the eyes of governing body and adhering to institutional policy. But what about our actual bodies? Scarred. Brown. Lighter brown and white because of travelling men and a lady with a crown across the sea. Birth belongs on the aski (land). But the norm is evacuation between 36 & 38 weeks gestation and neglect of sacred location.

Flying out like niskwak (geese) only to leave other awasisak (children) with who? The pass system forced you to stay, confinement for birth takes you away, residential schools took the Indian out of the child, now CAS takes children away from the Indian. Currently caught between grannies and professors.

I’ll show you and them that I can make this better. A responsibility to protect the water – both outside on the land and inside of the wombs across reproductive spectrum. Proper risk assessment and ceremony – including medicines and the drum. I promise our conversations about ab[use] and substance use won’t drag on; I’m supposed to tell you that it’s poison, but how can I tell you that when the water you drink can’t be purified by boiling? Leaving for confinement – isn’t that prison? You sit there silent and compliant, while I write shit down [document] and make some calls because it’s a requirement. Well *@$& that. Let us be peacefully defiant because inninew you now have a choice. Our parents, grandpas and grannies didn’t though. Dragged to those schools and promised a good life, inninew please listen to my voice. Let’s get through this one together. It will build and then it will go. Just like those schools got built on land that we call home. Your cervix will open and memories of doors closing and schools burning will fly. Let’s get this baby to cry. Create our body parts out of moose hide and practice beading (suturing) on foam so that I can impress my preceptor and that kookom (grandma) who lives and breathes beads, and waves her bingo dabber in the air as she screams. I’m trying to plant seeds, restore and amplify our Cree laughter in this cold room. Our families aren’t broken, but the land I am learning on is still stolen. Remember that people are trying, and I’ll try to respectfully be outspoken. Somewhere along the east coast of the James Bay, my voice was ripped when bodies and minds were stripped. We still aren’t their prey and they don’t get to have say. I’m through with that shit. I’ll keep talking. I’ll keep listening. I’ll keep praying too – but not with my hands together and down on my knees like so many black robes told us to do. Inninew I’m telling you, just keep doing you. It’s your life. I’ll just palpate and auscultate the fetal heart rate, and call myself a midwife [one day].

Alyssa Gagnon

Alyssa Gagnon

Alyssa’s spirit name is nipi (water). Her family is from the James Bay and she grew up on Taykwa Tagamou (New Post) territory. She is a First Nation Studies graduate from Western University, a third year student in the Midwifery Education Program here at Ryerson, an artist, and a mother to two young children.