Decolonizing Childbirth: Inuit Midwifery and the Return of Delivery to the Canadian North
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Since the 1970s, the mandatory evacuation of Inuit women to southern Canada for hospitalized childbirth has resulted in many negative impacts on communities including a loss of culture in the form of traditional knowledge and midwifery practices, negative health and social outcomes due to emotional, physical, and economic stressors, and a loss of autonomy and decision-making in pregnancy and childbirth. Furthermore, it is part of a larger historical pattern of Western biomedicine enforced on northern populations as a method of colonization and assimilation. Using the framework of colonial governmentality, this research examines two Inuit midwifery programs currently operating in Inuit land-claim areas of Northern Canada—the Inuulitsivik Maternities in Nunavik, QC and the Rankin Inlet Birthing Centre in Rankin Inlet, NU. A social determinants of health framework is applied to identify the ways in which Inuit midwifery programs provide a holistic and culturally respectful childbirth option by addressing social determinants in a way that the mandatory evacuation system cannot. These programs address maternal health in a holistic community-based model, taking into account cultural and social determinants of health, and provide a viable way of returning birth to the North. This is a return of both the physical birth event and a restoration and revitalization of Inuit childbirth knowledge to the community. Inuit midwifery further works as a force for decolonization, taking into account the historical trauma of colonial medicine and providing a model for Indigenous midwifery systems across Canada.