A War on Our Wombs

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Dominique Daye Hunter

Grandmother Leola’s words echoed in my ears:

“They said, ‘I’m tired of you AIM bitches making all this noise.’ And then they wrapped a rope around my neck and dragged me several feet until I broke loose. They almost killed me and my baby. I could feel him turning inside of me. By time they rode away [on their horses] I knew my baby’s life was in danger.”

Leola One Feather (Oglala Lakota) was pregnant around the same time as the standoff at Wounded Knee on February 27th, 1973. She was born and raised in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. A direct descendant of traditional midwives, she reached out to her mother and grandmother right away after the incident where two GOON’s (Guardians of the Oglala Nation) attacked her and attempted homicide and infanticide of her and her unborn baby while she was out walking to help her contractions along.

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Grandmother Leola One Feather (left) and Erika Zamora Higgins (right) speak about honoring ones moon time, telling traditional and contemporary stories of resistance, survival, and resilience. (Photography by Perla Farias Portugal)

She knew that she couldn’t go to the hospital, where even more hands would try to take the life of her child, and perhaps even herself. Immediately after the incident, while going into labor, it was obvious that her unborn child, likewise traumatized by this event, as their mother had been, was being choked, this time by its umbilical cord. With the knowledge and healing art of child birth passed down since time immemorial, her grandmother was able to untangle the star child and bring them safely into this world.

I can’t help but think of Grandmother Leola and her baby, days after I heard her story at the Cihuapactli Collective Ancestral Womb Wellness event hosted in Phoenix on Saturday, January 28th. Surrounded by aunties with cramp relieving teas, mothers with cyst-melting vaginal steams, and grandmothers with stories of Hená Amai (Mother Earth) walking, pyramid power, and survival, I felt like I had arrived. I belonged. I could fully relax. The war, still going on outside, was briefly overpowered by the love within this circle. In this beautiful space of femininity created within the walls of the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center, I saw both the strength and gentleness that makes women so powerful and so beautiful. The everyday cat-calls, disgusted looks at mentions of our sacred monthly ceremony, and ignorance of our intuition, had, just prior, come to a head for me. And this was just the place to finally release the much-awaited exhale of constant assault and enter into the safest vulnerability. Expecting mothers lay comfortably on the floor, being massaged and worked on by the experienced and loving hands of the Indigémama midwifes.

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Indigenous women gather in solidarity at the Ancestral Women Wellness event hosted by the Cihuapactli Collective. (Photography by Perla Farias Portugal)

I, myself, months earlier, had also laid at the hands of a health professional. The difference, however, was all too stark. Sitting on a metal table at my then-gynecologist’s office, the doctor came in and shook my hand. Her fingers were cold and sterile, just like her lab coat and her voice. She informed me that the cyst on my right ovary was the size of a golf ball. She said they’d have to cut me open. She said they “may not be able to save my ovary.” I stared at her in disbelief. Would a doctor, male or female, so flippantly tell a male patient that a common procedure may result in the loss of one of his balls? Oh, you know, you always have another one. No big deal. I left and never looked back.

Two days after the Ancestral Womb Wellness Event, one of our iWISER sisters from the Aeta tribe in the Philippines reported that a young woman in her community, another one of our sisters, had been found raped and murdered by solar power workers. Angelique Charlotte Bulatao, 20, just like Leona, was out walking in her own community. After gang raping and murdering her, they hung her body to stage her death as a suicide. She was four months pregnant.

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The late Angelique Charlotte Bulatao, from the Aeta tribe in the Philippines.

From Pine Ridge, to the Philippines, to Phoenix, and all in between the fight is the same. Indigenous women fight for their lives, and fight for the lives of their born and unborn children. The enemies called colonization and greed continue to wage a war on our wombs.

From the Black Snake in Standing Rock, to corrupt tribal governments, to mine and solar power workers dodging jurisdiction lines and slipping into policy loopholes, to the surgery tables in covert, make-shift sterilization clinics, to the Oval office filled with politicians-most of them non-Indigenous males- attempting to decide our futures with a stroke of a pen.

From the war on our wombs to the wars on our identity as Indigenous women: Every day, We Fight and We Pray.

Special thanks to the Cihuapactli Collective, and photographer and fellow collective member Perla Farias Portugal! Follow Perla’s journey at www.perlafariasphoto.com.

For more information about the Cihuapactli Collective and for upcoming events, please visit www.indigenamami.com/cihuapactli-collective.

Also, Like them on Facebook!: http://www.facebook.com/CihuapactliCollective.


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Dominique (Saponi/African/Irish/Polish descent) is the co-founder of Indigenous Womxn In Solidarity Empowered and Rising and owner of Est. Time Immemorial Clothing.
Dominique is also a poet/spoken word artist, short story writer, and aspiring recreational therapist. She is currently working on her B.S. in Nonprofit Leadership Management with an emphasis in American Indian Studies, and lives in Phoenix, AZ.


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