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"Only then will the buffalo return”: disrupting obstetric violence through Indigenous reproductive justice

Faculty Advisor




obstetric violence, Indigenous women, Canada

Abstract (summary)

In June of 2019, after enduring a C-section delivery at a Kamloops hospital, an Indigenous couple welcomed their first child. However, their joy was short lived, as child welfare workers came to take the baby, saying they had a report of neglect, ninety minutes after the baby was born. Although the maternal grandmother managed to initially hold off the child welfare workers, two days later, they returned to apprehend the infant while the mother slept due to a hospital admin-istered sedative. When she woke up, her newborn baby was gone (Ridgen). This story of Baby H, as the infant has come to be known, is one that many Indigenous women, children, and communities have experienced within the Canadian medical system and is one of the many forms of obstetric violence Indigenous women face. Indigenous women in Canada experience obstetric violence in the form of reproductive oppressions associated with birth alerts and baby apprehensions, such as that described above, and forced evacuated birth, when women from rural and remote communities are forced to leave their communities to birth in urban centres away from their support networks. These reproductive oppressions are couched in risk discourse and inscribe meanings on Indigenous maternal bodies as at risk or, in postnatal contexts, on Indigenous infant bodies as at risk. Fundamentally, these inscribed meanings privilege biomedical knowledge and deny Indigenous ways of knowing and being and make the impoverished worlds created by ongoing settler colonialism invisible.

Publication Information

Dawson L., & Suntjens T. (2022) “Only then will the buffalo return”: Disrupting obstetric violence through Indigenous reproductive justice. In A. N. Castañeda, N. Hill, & J. Johnson Searcy (Eds.), Obstetric violence: Realities and resistance from around the world (Chapter 13, pp. 227-242). Demeter Press.



Item Type

Book Chapter



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