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Mewinzha Ondaadiziike Wiigaming: Group holds traditional Native American birthing seminar in Bemidji

BEMIDJI -- Mothers, nurses, doulas and midwives were welcomed this week to the Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselor Training hosted by the Mewinzha Ondaadiziike Wiigaming organization at Northwest Indian Community Development Center.

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Camie Goldhammer, an instructor of the Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselor Training, responds to a comment during the seminar on Friday at the Northwest Indian Community Development Center. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI -- Mothers, nurses, doulas and midwives were welcomed this week to the Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselor Training hosted by the Mewinzha Ondaadiziike Wiigaming organization at Northwest Indian Community Development Center.

Many first-time mothers, or mothers who were not completely educated on breastfeeding, do not know all of the risks or benefits of breastfeeding their child, organizers of the event said. And for Native American women, information like this is traditionally passed down from mothers and grandmothers, but may have been lost over time because of many outside factors.

“We thought that there was a need for better education,” said Roberta Decker, a licensed practical nurse and co-founder of Mewinzha Ondaadiziike Wiigaming.

Many women who are pregnant or are expecting to become pregnant know very little about every aspect of birthing and raising a child, and while the event is geared toward those who identify as indigenous, women of all backgrounds were welcome to attend the weeklong event, which was free and open to the public.

“Nobody gets turned away,” said Millicent Simenson, also an LPN and co-founder of Mewinzha Ondaadiziike Wiigaming. “We work with everybody.”

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In Ojibwe, Mewinzha translates to “long ago;” Ondaadiziike to “birthing” and Wiigaming to “in birthing lodge, home or building.”

The Bemidji program was a way for the community to get together and share stories, advice, experiences and education.

The largest gathering of people from the five-day course was 76 people from from 25 different native nations. The event was the first of its kind in Minnesota, and only the second of its kind in the United States, organizers said. And with Bemidji at the center of three reservations -- Leech Lake, Red Lake, and White Earth -- seminars geared toward traditional Native American birthing practices seems like a good fit.

Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselors Camie Goldhammer and Kimberly Moore-Salas spoke at the event, informing women of breastfeeding techniques, natural occurrences such as breast abscesses and nipple tenderness and answering any questions from attendees.

“It’s been a wonderful experience; healing for everyone,” Moore-Salas said. She and Goldhammer are two of only a dozen Native Lactation Consultants, a small number when, overall, there are about 20,000 lactation consultants nationwide.

The weeklong event covered topics such as historical trauma and parenting practices, how to breastfeed, alternative feeding methods, how birth impacts breastfeeding, maternal mood disorders, medication and other substances in mother’s milk, water rights and how it relates to breastfeeding food sovereignty and so much more.  

More information on Mewinzha Ondaadiziike Wiigaming and the other birthing practices they provide is available on their website www.mewinzha.com and Facebook page.

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