Monday, February 20, 2012

San Ildefonso Women Elected to Council

             This is my home...or at least a view from my window.  San Ildefonso Pueblo is one of the eight northern pueblos, located in Northern New Mexico.  It has 800 registered members who call it home, as well.  We moved here from Albuquerque almost 6 years ago.  Our reasons for living here, where to bring up our children in a traditional way and to have a life rich in culture.  However, to our dismay, it didn't go quite like that.  However, despite our struggles and disappointments, this day has come, and surprisingly change has brought fourth the voice of women. Granted, they have always been there, but now they count.
              As a Navajo woman who has enjoyed all the benefits of growing up on a matriarchal society, pueblo life is and has been quite different.  The reality of being Navajo (with CIB 100% stamped on it) and living in Pueblo territory (reservation). What kind of rights do I have?  I can't own land, I can't vote, I can't own my house...What are my rights?..This is my reality and I'm okay with it right now.  However, for the women who grew up on this pueblo and have danced Corn Dance every August in the plaza, the right to vote or hold office has never been theirs.  However, this reality has changed for them.
             Many...and if not all tribes are now facing change in how their governments are being run.  Tradition is being challenged on many levels.  Pueblos are being divided and families are being divided by the very act of challenging tradition.  Correct me if I'm wrong here, but culturally Native American tribes are revered for adapting to new living conditions.  This was one of them.  Family structures have changed, there are now more single parent households on the reservations.  Most of these families are made up of only women.  So how are their issues going to be heard or even understood if they don't have a man to represent them on the council?  I'm not implying that these women here are meek, rather most of them are bold and perfectly capable of caring for their families, without the help of men.  Many of them have been doing it for generations.  However, that to it's effect is not the root of traditional life.  The men and women here work together for the health and wellbeing of the community.  In celebration, in death, in ceremony...I have seen the men and women here work together in a way that few communities come together today.  When I go visit my Navajo family, they always ask me..did you learn how to make that oven bread yet?  In all honesty, the famous pueblo oven bread is not a product of one person.  Rather it is the work of "several women." My point is, all this political unrest..which has lead up to this very life changing event for this community, has been the dividing this community for years...and long before we ever moved back.

              This is only the beginning.  Out of the 800 tribal members, only 200-ish voted. Which means, not everyone is on board with this new era of thinking and decision making.  These 3 women may find themselves in challenging positions, not only because they are serving on the council, but their presence is also challenging cultural and traditional roles that have been set in place for thousands of years.  I commend all of them for taking on the responsibility of their families and their community on themselves.  It is nice to here our men say... you are welcome to speak at the family meeting..we want to here what the women have to say.
             Integrity, honesty, love for community are not only female qualities, but rather qualities our grandmothers and elders have been trying to teach us all along.  We may have strayed from that, but hopefully this change will be for the better.  We will just have to wait and see.

My husband tells me...especially when I'm having difficulty being strong and I'm faced with adversity.

"Be strong like a woman...Be strong like a man.."

Link to News on this:
San Ildefonso Women Elected to Counsel

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Prayer At Work

            It is always a joy to walk into the hospital and see a Navajo grandmother waiting in the hallway for her family member to deliver a baby.  We both give each other a knowing node...I wave and say Ya'ah'teeh! Her face lights up.  Inside I am smiling, because yes..there is a bit of home standing in the hallway and I don't feel so out of place...Imagine that...
            You've read of my journey through school and all the many experiences I've had since starting as a new graduate midwife, and yes there is always more to learn.  However, I feel at times that I'm not well understood.  Not sure if that is a cultural thing or a new grad thing.  My lack of insecurity may come off as overly secure in my skills, but honestly and seriously I feel that in our Navajo culture we are taught to handle stressful situations through prayer and to maintain a positive attitude.  I actually pray every day to maintain a level of strength, clarity, and calmness in my decisions as a new midwife.  So what may seem like an overly secure midwife, rather then an insecure one, is really my prayer at work.  I've worked with stressful and nervous providers and that does not make everyone feel confident in their skills, rather it creates stress and nervousness in each decision.
              On another note, the Native families that I'm able to care for, man are they excited to see someone like them, taking care of their loved one.  I've heard comments like " I'm glad there is one of us in such a high position."  I don't necessarily view my position as high, however to them it might be.  This feeling of shared accomplishment, regardless of the fact that I may not be related them, they feel a sense of pride in me, as I feel a sense of pride to care for them.  This connection is powerful and worth whatever culture differences I've experienced up to this point.  These families are special gifts every time and I always look forward to working with them.  After meeting a native family, they usually ask if I'm Navajo and then they are able to place me.  If it's a Navajo family I'm caring for, I will introduce myself and my clan so they can place me.  I acknowledge not only the expecting couple, but I pay special attention to any elders in the room.
                Each couple I've encountered, Native American or not, they do seem to notice my calm nature and have commented on how it was my calm strength that seemed to help them in the throws of labor.  In the end, that is what I aim for.  Each experience shapes me as a midwife.... just as much as their experiences with me as their midwife shapes them.  For me, birth is not just a medical intervention waiting to happen, it's a spiritual experience and an opportunity for cultural renewal and a chance to connect with something bigger then ourselves.  This can not be taught.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Culture in a Time of iPhones

           Now that I've had the pleasure of caring for several Native American mom's, this question continues to pop up.  How do I maintain my cultural-ness surrounding pregnancy and birth, while living in a modern world?  I'm actually going to throw this question out to you.  Generally, I can counsel them on the Navajo Do's and Don'ts during pregnancy, but really and honestly..and seriously, I advise them to go talk to their mothers and grandmothers. Traditional knowledge surrounding birth should be passed down from the female patriachs in your family.  Unfortunatly, for some, even this knowledge is not accessable, as that much of our traditional birth knowledge has been lost in translation..(seriously it has). 
             Some women don't understand the importance of culture and what role it plays...well until they have children.  Then suddenly they want to know...Which is really great, because it is never to late to learn your roots and take pride in learning that knowledge for yourself.  Man, if I my Shah-mah' tsah'nih (grandmother), was still around, I would be drinking some of her coffee (the best by the way) and asking her as many questions as I could think of..... From the story of Changing Woman to asking her to show me how to weave.  These maternal feelings of wanting to learn my roots didn't sprout at birth, because like most Natives, while growing up I wanted to wear Guess Jeans and fit in like everyone else.  It wasn't until I had children that the idea of what kind of parent I wanted to be or what kind of knowledge I wanted to pass on to my children, did I think about what I didn't know and what I wanted to know.
              I imagine one day my grandchildren will be coming to me to ask about "the days back when." I imagine I will smell like bengay, be wearing my traditional squash blossom around my neck, and perhaps living in a modern day hogan.  I don't know..but really, seriously...I say my dawn prayers daily, my medicine bag is in my pocket when I go to catch babies, and my phone is on vibrate to notify me of Facebook updates.  Live the best way you can..traditional, non-traditional, both....happy.