What is an Indigenous Birth Keeper?


  • Sophie Harms


After meeting with a local Anishinnabe Birth Keeper, Elise Ruel, I have learned that colonial medical biopedagogies continue to inflict great harm upon Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. As such, the role of Indigenous Birth Keepers as advocates for Indigenous birthing persons can support Indigenous healing and empowerment in the wake of forced sterilizations, residential schools, the sixties scoop, and disproportionate birth alerts that continue to harm these communities. Elise shared that a western view of health is completely different from an Indigenous view of health. An Indigenous perspective considers the health of the individual in six years, in the context of the community's health. Western medicine seems to seek instant fixes, with importance placed on pharmaceuticals. In contrast, Indigenous health is based on how an individual is aligned with the Seven Grandfather Teachings; Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty, Humility & Wisdom. These do not traditionally fit in with the practices of colonial medicine. Therefore, Elise’s role as an Indigenous Birth Keeper brings these teachings back into discussions of health. Elise says she is helping her community heal one birth at a time. In the face of dominant ideologies and their resulting violence within colonial healthcare systems, Birth Keeping is the ground zero of Indigenous healing. It is instilling Indigenous wisdom at the very introduction of life and parenthood.

This brochure can be distributed in any colonial medical office, to provide a dissenting resource for expectant peoples in spaces that typically do not permit such voices.

Author Biography

Sophie Harms


Sophie is a first generation settler residing on the unceeded, traditional and unsurrendered territory of the Syilx Peoples. She is a third-year Cultural Studies student at UBCO with an interest in decolonization and intersectional reproductive justice in so-called Canada. She also runs an Instagram account, @kelownaprochoiceprotest, along with her fellow colleague, Nyah Meller. When not writing or protesting, Sophie creates social media content for local non-profit, Mamas for Mamas.

Author Sophie Harms smiling at the camera. She has round glasses, shoulder length light brown hair and is wearing a white top.