indigenous culture – Kindred Media https://www.kindredmedia.org Sharing the New Story of Childhood, Parenthood, and the Human Family Sat, 19 Sep 2020 16:20:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.6 https://www.kindredmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/cropped-Kindred-Black-Logo-square-32x32.png indigenous culture – Kindred Media https://www.kindredmedia.org 32 32 Native Breastfeeding Week Is August 9-15: An Interview with the Founder, Jasha Echo-Hawk https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/08/a-closer-look-at-native-breastfeeding-week/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/08/a-closer-look-at-native-breastfeeding-week/#respond Mon, 10 Aug 2020 02:13:09 +0000 https://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=26226 “Native Breastfeeding is an act of defiance to the colonial systems and their imposed ‘norms’ as well as a resilience of culture and body sovereignty, no matter the length of your experience. In decolonizing practices of motherhood such as breastfeeding, we can promote food sovereignty, body sovereignty, and the healing of the next generation. In […]]]>
Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk, founder of Native Breastfeeding Week

“Native Breastfeeding is an act of defiance to the colonial systems and their imposed ‘norms’ as well as a resilience of culture and body sovereignty, no matter the length of your experience. In decolonizing practices of motherhood such as breastfeeding, we can promote food sovereignty, body sovereignty, and the healing of the next generation. In decolonizing feeding practices, we follow the needs of our children.” Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk, founder of Native Breastfeeding Week.

Listen to the podcast interview below:



What is Native Breastfeeding Week?

The mission of the Native Breastfeeding Week community is to reflect the diversity of Native Breastfeeding experiences and/or encourage and uplift visibility of Native Breastfeeding experiences. Native breastfeeding and chestfeeding is an act of defiance to the colonial systems and their imposed norms as well as a resilience of culture and body sovereignty.

There are so many people who work across Turtle Island* to ensure all parents have the access and opportunity to reclaim their right to freely nurse their children for however long they need to or are able to.

Visit the Native Breastfeeding Week’s Facebook page to find out more about this week’s events!

This community also hopes to address the inequity and injustice of Indigenous mothers and their abilities to practice their roles in accordance to the tribal communities they descend from.

Breastfeeding is defined as “the natural feeding of babies and young children with milk from a woman’s breast.” We also recognize gender non-conformity, and language also will include chestfeeding individuals.

Native Breastfeeding Week will occur during the week beginning on the second Sunday in August, which is recognized as National Breastfeeding Month in the United States.

Why does Native Chest/Breastfeeding Matter? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the current literature on breastfeeding patterns among American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) mothers is scarce, thus warranting further research.

Based on the limited data, AI/AN mothers have lower rates of breastfeeding initiation (introduction of breastfeeding within one hour of birth), duration, and exclusivity relative to other racial/ethnic groups except for African Americans:

  • AI/AN rates of breastfeeding initiation (73%) among all races/ethnicities versus the average (83%)
  • Rates of breastfeeding duration at 6 months (42.4%) and at 12 months (20.7% of mothers who initiate)
  • 76% (3 out of 4) of AI/AN mothers terminated breastfeeding within 4 months of the child’s birth
  • Formula supplementation is high (97%) for those mothers who didn’t initiate.
  • There’s no regulation on how baby formula is advertised in the U.S., a reason mothers could think formula is a substitute for breast milk.
  • Pasteurized donor milk could help those babies, but it’s often not covered by either private or public insurance, and buying donor milk without insurance can easily cost thousands of dollars a month.
  • That leaves many newborns, especially those in low-income families, without access. At “safety-net” hospitals where more than 75 percent of patients are on Medicaid, only 13 percent routinely make donor milk available to premature babies in intensive care, according to a 2012 survey.
  • Lack of knowledge about breastfeeding, unsupportive cultural and social norms, concerns about milk supply, poor family and social support, and unsupportive work and childcare environments make it difficult for many mothers to meet their breastfeeding goals. It is the “political, social, and environmental factors that actually shape breastfeeding.”**
  • On a positive note, AI/AN mothers who were still breastfeeding at 6 months were more likely to still be breastfeeding at 12 months

So, this community is to put a face to the data and to share the contributions, importance, adversity, and celebration of Native breast/chestfeeding families.

Native Breastfeeding is an act of defiance to the colonial systems and their imposed “norms” as well as a resilience of culture and body sovereignty, no matter the length of your experience. In decolonizing practices of motherhood such as breastfeeding, we can promote food sovereignty, body sovereignty, and the healing of the next generation. In decolonizing feeding practices, we follow the needs of our children.

“Extended breastfeeding” is what some advocates call breastfeeding beyond years 1 or 2, but, as an Indigenous person, to continue to meet the needs of our children by chest/breastfeeding beyond infancy, we are merely upholding our traditional parenting.

Who is Native Breastfeeding Week?

Native Breastfeeding Week is a collaborative effort of Indigenous breastfeeding counselors, breast/chestfeeding advocates, community health nurses, lactation consultants, and birth workers as well as breastfeeding mothers/folx. The initial idea originated from our Oklahoma collaborator, Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk (Seminole/Pawnee/Creek/Omaha/Iowa), a community advocate, public speaker, Birth Doula, local lactivist, and unapologetic brelfie-taker. The intention was to create a space for visibility of all Native Breast/chestfeeding experiences, to learn from each other, celebrate each other, and to call attention to the context of injustice of Native parenting.

Jasha says, “Lactation is my superpower, but it also seems to be treated like a privilege and not a sovereign right regardless of whether you’re Indigenous or not.

“Colonization and patriarchy have starved most of us physically, spiritually, and culturally. It started by starving off my ancestors so chest/breastfeeding relatives couldn’t provide the first food, and they were reduced to cancer-causing rations which didn’t supply their bodies with the adequate nutrients needed for lactation…my fight will always be for cultural and community restoration of basic human rights.

“I will also fight for access so all parents who can and want to breastfeed will have that right. Anytime, anywhere, on-demand, and “extended breastfeeding” is not a taboo, but culturally relevant and respected. I want to continue reclaiming that connection to my roots as a tribal descendant of so many communities. We are fighting adversity and healing generations.”

*Turtle Island is the name many Indigenous people use to refer to the earth or North America.
**UNICEF Global Breastfeeding Scorecard

Share this article with these hashtags for Native Breastfeeding Week:

  • #NativeBreastfeedingWeek
  • #StrongResilientLatched
  • #IndigenousParenting
  • #IndigenousMilk
  • #Bodyfeeding
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Natives Foster Happy People Without Overthinking https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/07/natives-foster-happy-people-without-overthinking/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/07/natives-foster-happy-people-without-overthinking/#respond Sun, 26 Jul 2020 17:32:49 +0000 https://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=26045 In 1975, Jean Liedloff shocked Americans with her book, The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost. She reflected on her multiple stays in the Amazon living with the Tauripan, Yequana, and Sanema peoples, who were healthy and happy beyond her imaginings. She was amazed at the differences in child-raising between the US and these “primitive” people. They were […]]]>

In 1975, Jean Liedloff shocked Americans with her book, The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost. She reflected on her multiple stays in the Amazon living with the Tauripan, Yequana, and Sanema peoples, who were healthy and happy beyond her imaginings.

She was amazed at the differences in child-raising between the US and these “primitive” people. They were far from primitive but intuitively loving towards their children, raising intelligent and healthy adults.

She suggested that U.S. child-raising practices were undernourishing or even destructive, with the results that U.S. babies were very unpleasant, unwelcome in workplaces and parties:

“They usually shriek and kick, wave their arms and stiffen their bodies, so that one needs two hands, and a lot of attention, to keep them under control.” (p. x)

Liedloff noted that it was easy to tell the difference between babies who were physically “in arms” for much of a 24-hour day and those who were not. The former had flexible body tone and the latter “felt like pokers” (p. x).

She advocated taking (well-nurtured) babies to work instead of isolating mothers and children in their homes:

“We need to recognize that, by treating babies the way we did for hundreds of thousands of years, we can be assured of calm, soft, undemanding little creatures. Only then can working mothers, unwilling to be bored and isolated all day with no adult companionship, rid themselves of their cruel conflict. Babies taken to work are where they need to be—with their mothers; and the mothers are where they need to be—with their peers, not doing baby care but something worthy of intelligent adults.” (pp. x-xi)

Babies expect to be embedded in an active living community, not the center of attention but an observer.

The Evolved Nest is a breakthrough concept that integrates findings across fields that bear on child development, child raising and adult behavior.  The Evolved Nest promotes optimal health and wellbeing, cooperation, and receptive and sociomoral intelligences. Societal moves away from providing the Evolved Nest have contributed to the ill being and dysregulation we see in one another and society. Learn how to nest your children and re-nest yourself.

“A baby’s expectation is to be in the midst of an active person’s life, in constant physical contact, witnessing the kinds of experience he will have later in life. His role while in arms is passive, with all his sense observant. He enjoys occasional direct attention, kisses, tickles, being thrown in the air, and so on. But his main business is to absorb the actions, interactions and surroundings of his caretaker, adult or child. This information prepares him to take his place among his people by helping him to understand what they do. To thwart this powerful urge—by looking inquiringly, so to speak, at a baby who is looking inquiringly at you—creates profound frustration; it manacles his mind. The baby’s expectation of a strong, busy, central figure, to whom he can be peripheral, is undermined by an emotionally needy, servile person who is seeking his acceptance or approval. The baby will increasingly signal, but it will not be for more attention. It is actually a demand for the appropriate kind of experience.  Much of his frustration is due to his inability to make his signals (that things are wrong) bring about anything right.” (p. xiv)

Over her multiple visits to the Amazon, Liedloff reflected on what felt right or wrong — for a baby and for herself. For a baby carried virtually 24/7:

“The feeling appropriate to an infant in arms is his feeling of rightness, or essential goodness. The only positive identity he can know, being the animal he is, is based on the premise that he is right, good, and welcome. Without that conviction, a human being of any age is crippled by a lack of confidence, a full sense of self, of spontaneity, of grace. All babies are good, but can know it themselves only by reflection, by the way they are treated … Without the sense of being right, one has no sense of how much one ought to claim of comfort, security, help, companionship, love, friendship, things, pleasure or joy. A person without this sense often feels there is an empty space where he ought to be.” (p. 34)

Liedloff felt that she and her fellow Americans were crippled in this way, having never developed a sense of innate goodness. Instead of finding rightness in herself, she needed outside reassurance that she was worthy, but this could only be superficial.

“Ever more frequently our innate sense of what is best for us is short-circuited by suspicion while the intellect, which has never known much about our real needs, decides what to do. It is not, for example, the province of the reasoning faculty to decide how a baby ought to be treated. We have had exquisitely precise instincts, expert in every detail for child care, since long before we became anything resembling Homo sapiens. But we have conspired to baffle this long-standing knowledge so utterly that we now employ researchers full time to puzzle out how we should behave toward children, one another and ourselves. It is no secret that the experts have not “discovered” how to live satisfactorily, but the more they fail, the more they attempt to bring the problems under the sole influence of reason and disallow what reason cannot understand or control.” (pp. 21-22)

We’ve moved so far away from following instinct and shaping intuition about what is good for a baby, for the self, that we create problems we think can be resolved by experimental research. She argues that if we provide babies with what they need, as part of the human species, they will develop health and happiness. She describes how the newborn expects the species’ developmental niche or evolved nest to fulfill basic needs.

“Fresh from the series of expectations and their fulfillment in the womb, the newborn infant is expectant, or, more accurately, certain, that his next requirements will also be met … his place in arms is the expected place, know to his inmost sense as his place, and what he experiences while he is in arms is acceptable to his continuum, fulfills his current needs and contributes correctly to his development.

Again, the quality of his awareness is very different from what it will become. He cannot qualify his impression of how things are. Either they are right or not right. Requirements are strict at this early date. As we have seen, he cannot hope, if he is uncomfortable now, that he will be comfortable later. He cannot feel that “mother will be right back” when she leaves him; the world has suddenly gone wrong. Conditions are intolerable. … nothing in his evolving ancestors’ experience has prepared him to be left alone, asleep or awake, and even less to be left alone to cry.” (pp. 33-34)

The book is still shocking to read because of the contrast to most U.S. babies’ experiences. Recently, neurobiological sciences are providing empirical evidence for some of Liedloff’s insights and the importance of evolved, nested early experience (e.g., Narvaez, Braungart-Rieker, Miller-Graff, Gettler & Hastings, 2016; Narvaez, Pankepp, Schore & Gleason, 2013; Narvaez, Valentino, Fuentes, McKenna & Gray, 2014). In the podcast below, Mary Tarsha and I give it a thumbs up in terms of meeting Evolved Nestcomponents.

References

Find out more about The Evolved Nest, and how to bring home our species’ need for raising nested children to create compassionate adults.

Liedloff, J. (1977). The continuum concept: In search of happiness lost. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.

Narvaez, D., Braungart-Rieker, J., Miller, L. Gettler, L., & Hastings, P. (Eds.) (2016). Contexts for Young Child Flourishing: Evolution, Family and Society. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Narvaez, D., Panksepp, J., Schore, A., & Gleason, T. (Eds.) (2013). Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development: From Research to Practice and Policy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Narvaez, D., Valentino, K., Fuentes, A., McKenna, J., & Gray, P. (Eds.) (2014). Ancestral landscapes in human evolution: Culture, childrearing and social wellbeing. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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Mother And Child: Visions Of Parenting From Indigenous Cultures https://www.kindredmedia.org/2016/07/mother-child-visions-parenting-indigenous-cultures/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2016/07/mother-child-visions-parenting-indigenous-cultures/#respond Mon, 11 Jul 2016 01:32:25 +0000 http://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=18655 Award-winning journalist and photographer, Jan Reynolds, has lived and traveled with indigenous mothers around the world. From above the Arctic Circle to the Himalaya, the Sahara, Finmark, the Aboriginal outback, the Amazon territory, and Mongolia – Reynolds has seen and shared directly these women’s age-old ways of loving and teaching their children. Reynolds’ writing is complemented […]]]>

Award-winning journalist and photographer, Jan Reynolds, has lived and traveled with indigenous mothers around the world. From above the Arctic Circle to the Himalaya, the Sahara, Finmark, the Aboriginal outback, the Amazon territory, and Mongolia – Reynolds has seen and shared directly these women’s age-old ways of loving and teaching their children. Reynolds’ writing is complemented by her photography as she gives both equal weight in conveying what she learned from these mothers, “… that the natural world has eternity in it, and a mother’s instincts during pregnancy, birth, and child rearing links her to this eternal chain of life.”

Mother and Child CoverReynolds’ respect for both the indigenous peoples and the land itself is evident as she shares her discovery of how a deep connection with the natural world strengthens the primal nature of the mother-child bond, giving these women the confidence to connect with their own offspring and to trust in their natural instincts while handling them.

The baby was given every human signal that would nurture a sense of security….

Newborns were nursed, held, or carried by their mothers from the moment of birth. As toddlers, they joined their mother as she went about her daily chores. Following and mimicking mother, the children were “a thread in the weave of their daily life.” Whether it be foraging for food, or tending a fire, a child assumed only as much of the task as he or she showed interest in. At night, most of the families slept together.

Reynolds found that the children were remarkably poised and self confident, and remained so as they grew into adolescence. She saw this to be the outcome of their having received so full a measure of security and every affirmation of belonging in the early years. Learning the ways and values of their culture through direct, tangible examples and participation, they grew naturally into independence. Shared activities enabled them to grow into confident, caring, young adults. One result of this self-confidence was the strong bond of friendship apparent between peers.

Self assured children are less likely to be aggressive, need less supervision, and are more interested in playing together.

She noticed that while parents in the west tend to dive in with solutions whenever possible, for the most part the indigenous children were left to solve their own curiosities and settle their own grievances–in this way they learned that they could achieve on their own.

Through these pages I came to appreciate–with awe and wonder–the lives of these people and their home lands. I learned of the Tuareg, a matrilineal society deep in the heart of the Sahara. Here the men, not women, wear veils. When the time comes for marriage, the women choose the men. And it is the woman who passes on the family wealth and name. I read with fascination of the lives of the Yanomama–the largest primitive tribe still living on earth–in the Amazon. They have no words for time of day, other than high noon; and still hunt with a bow and arrow. I loved learning of how a child is born and cared for by the Inuit of the Arctic, an area known for being consistently the coldest spot on earth. And of how the Inuit clean house–they build a new igloo and leave the other behind.

For those people, who live in complete harmony with nature… this custom works. When everything utilized by the culture comes from the land, it can simply return to the land and no harm is done.

Reynolds writes too, of the time when a mother becomes a grandmother and enters her “twilight years.” Seldom trapped by ego and vanity, she becomes the source of cultural stability, “…the link between what was and what is now…. If mother is the heart of the continuum, grandmother is the soul.”

In this book, you will meet these women, their families, and the earth they live on–each embodying a wisdom worthy of our attention, today. Noting that is was not until she had a child of her own that she recognized the applicability of their ways to her own life, Reynolds offers suggestions for ways that mothers in the western world can incorporate this indigenous wisdom into their own lives. She offers examples of how keeping the ways of the indigenous in mind helped her to see workable and caring options that were not initially obvious or readily available. For example, when pregnant Reynolds remembered her indigenous friends who had hauled water in the Himalaya, and traveled on camel caravan in the Sahara, after consulting with physicians who concluded elevation was not a problem if she didn’t push herself aerobically, she headed off to Morocco to climb and ski Mount Toubkal for work projects of own.

When the time came to give birth, Reynolds–while appreciating the availability of backup medical facilities in case of complications–delivered at home with a midwife, as had the indigenous women she had seen. Having observed birth with the indigenous to be more of a change in environment than a separation between people, she saw to it that the newborn was immediately laid on her breast, where he was able to rest, nurse, and hear his mother’s voice and heart beat. Reynolds developed mastitis but again, having observed breastfeeding around the world she persisted in nursing, convinced as she was of the benefits to mother and infant. Having seen women around the world sleep with their infants, and carry their babies close to bodies at all times, she too readily adopted these practices.

Because I had seen how happy and effective the older indigenous children were within their community, I came to trust and appreciate the simple, instinctual ways of their mothers.

To women without the flexibility Reynolds has with her work schedule, she suggests other possibilities, among them coordinating with other moms to swap childcare for free time; arranging to take baby into work; working part-time from home; working less and doing with less money. The influence of the indigenous caused her to recognize many baby specialty items were not at all necessary.

And from these people, Reynolds learned about letting go. I resonated with her feelings of happiness at seeing her child move towards secure independence, feelings which run side-by-side with “that wistful feeling of wanting to be needed more.”

My indigenous friends taught me that their job as mothers was to teach their children, from the moment of birth, to live without them.

This little book is a treasure. A delight to look at, a pleasure to read–and to share with your children. Mother & Child can be read in an hour or two. A light introduction to continuum principles. Much of the material is conveyed through the photography.

Featured photo Shutterstock/meunierd

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