Across Indian Country, there is a silent health epidemic killing Native women: pregnancy and childbirth.
Women in the U.S. already suffer the highest rate of maternal deaths among the world’s high-income countries. Among those deaths, Native women are three times more likely to die during childbirth than their white counterparts. In Washington state, home to 29 federally recognized tribes, the chasm is far greater: Native mothers there die 8.5 times more often than white mothers during childbirth, owing to system failures and unconscious biases in the Evergreen State's health system.
Those deaths are due to a number of factors: underlying behavioral health conditions; lack of access to health care; and issues of bias and discrimination affecting care, including delays in diagnosis, treatments, and referrals. The vast majority of those deaths—80%—are preventable.
Camie Goldhammer, a Sisseton-Wahpeton tribal citizen and a birthwork professional, wants to be part of the solution.
Goldhammer is one of the dozens of Indigenous birthwork professionals nationally, and the founder of the only such company based in the Seattle area. Goldhammer sees her work bringing Indigenous culture back to birthing as both preventative and restorative. By providing free-of-cost services to pregnant women—including demystifying the labor and delivery process, feeding them traditional foods, and teaching them how to make the cradleboards their ancestors were once held in as babies—Goldhammer’s team of Indigenous doulas are not just saving Native lives, but welcoming new ones in a culturally appropriate way.