Hi•dasubač Initiative REceives $200,000 grant to restore Indigenous birth Justice in the Makah Community
With the support of Ttáwaxt Birth Justice Center, the Hi•dasubač Initiative was chosen as a recipient for a 3-year $200,000 grant funded by the Perigee Fund. The funding aims to support the defining, design, and implementation of indigenous birth justice work for the Makah community.
What is indigenous birth justice? Birth justice is when native communities can honor their ancestors. Birth justice is making the best decisions during pregnancy, labor, childbirth, and after the baby arrives to ensure the next generation continues.
There are maternal care decisions that Makah women do not have because of our rural location and lack of maternal health care access. It is typical for a Makah woman to travel almost 2 hours to receive prenatal care and give birth. In complicated pregnancies, mothers have to travel even further, as much as 4 hours. A Makah community-led work group identified that travel is incredibly difficult for the working mother. She has to use medical leave to receive prenatal care, which leaves little to no leave remaining after childbirth. Additionally, receiving prenatal care at home or being able to have a home delivery are not options available to women living on the Makah reservation.
Jessica Whitehawk is the founder and president of Ttáwaxt Birth Justice. Glenda Abbott is a traditional knowledge keeper who focuses on indigenous-led community projects. They first heard of the unique hurdles Makah women maneuver and wanted to meet us and learn more. Initially, the Makah community was on the schedule for Jessica and Glenda's Indigenous Birth Justice Tour. They would facilitate community round tables about traditional birth teachings and community maternal health needs. However, Covid-19 put a halt to that. So instead, we held a small virtual meeting with four community members. One community member shared an emotional story of not feeling heard by health care providers, which ultimately put her in a life-threatening situation.
In Washington state, American Indian/Alaskan Native women are eight times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes. The Washington Department of Health reported American Indian/Alaskan Native women had the highest pregnancy maternal mortality ratio at 196.2 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The maternal mortality ratio for white women in Washington is 24.9 deaths per 100,000 live births.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines pregnancy-related death as a woman's death while pregnant or within one year after pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management. Dr. David Goodman, a co-author of a CDC study on racial disparities in maternal mortality, is searching for ways to prevent these deaths. A significant factor Goodman shares is the need to consider what is happening in our communities that are contributing to our systems of care.
Maternal mortality rates for Native American women are disturbing across the country. In New Mexico, 20 percent of the 97 maternal death cases identified in 2010 to 2014 involved Native women. However community-led and grass roots initiatives are rising to the occasion. Tewa Women United, located on the Tewa ancestral lands of Northern New Mexico, offers doulas at a low or no cost and offers prenatal and postpartum care.
The Tewa Women United work came out of a survey of Tewa women. Of 131 women who responded, 49.6 percent wanted their cultural practices to be more a part of their birthing experience. 44.1 percent felt their prenatal care providers were not culturally sensitive. And 41.7 percent felt that their labor and delivery staff were not culturally sensitive. Additionally, 39.3 percent wanted prenatal care in their homes.
Are you passionate about indigenous reproductive justice? Apply to be a member of our coalition. The coalition will be passionate community members who want to address our maternal health care needs. They will be responsible for setting the project's direction to better support our Makah women. Sign up for our mailing list if you wish to receive a notification when the coalition positions are available.