Akwesasne First Nation, Québec
“Woman is the First Environment. In pregnancy, our bodies sustain life. At the breast of women, the generations are nourished. From the bodies of women flows the relationship of those generations, both to society and the natural world. In this way, the earth is our mother, the old people said. In this way, we as women are earth.”
A preeminent advocate for the preservation and restoration of Aboriginal midwifery, and a major voice for community-driven environmental and reproductive justice, health, research and practice, Tekatsitsikwa Katsi Cook (Wolf Clan Mohawk) is a beloved Native woman leader and Elder. Katsi Cook’s work spans many worlds and disciplines, and demonstrates a life-long career of advancing the superlatives of Indigenous Knowledge through strengthening Aboriginal midwifery.
Katsi spawned a new generation of Aboriginal midwives, while simultaneously working to influence public policy, promoting community and culture-based practice and research. Katsi was a prominent member of the Interim Regulatory Council of Midwives that worked to professionalize midwifery in Ontario.
“If we don’t use our rights, we lose our rights,” said Katsi as the founding Aboriginal Midwife of the Tsi Non:we lonnakeratstha Ona:granhsta on Six Nations of the Grand River. She operationalized the exemption for Aboriginal Midwives under the Ontario Midwifery Act and Regulated Health Professions Act (1994). The exemption has been critical to restore birth to Indigenous communities in Ontario, and has inspired birth activists across North America, who seek to restore Indigenous ways of knowing and being in relation to the powers of reproduction and birth.
Katsi grounds her midwifery in the teachings of her Onkwehonwe generations, framing her work in the intersections of environmental reproductive health and justice. Early in her life, she tailored a training program that included academic course work in health sciences and clinical training in community-based programs. She is a co-founding member of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives.