In Reproduction on the Reservation: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Colonialism in the Long Twentieth Century
(University of North Carolina Press, 2019),
historian Brianna Theobald
delivers a long-overdue, comprehensive history of Native women’s reproductive health, rights, and practices. Alternating her focus between the Crow Reservation in Montana and the experiences of Native women across the United States, Theobald shows how Native women navigated and resisted colonial attempts to restrict their bodily autonomy. By extension, argues Theobald, Native women constituted a particularly resilient vanguard of cultural resistance and persistence in the face of an increasingly aggressive, ever-expanding settler colonial system.
Reproduction on the Reservation
draws on a diverse range of ethnographic sources, health records and correspondence from the Office of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Indian Health Service, oral and tribal histories, and secondary literature. With nuanced analysis and clear prose, Theobald weaves together these sources to highlight the intersections of reproduction, women’s health, and colonialism, and how these historical forces converge upon Native women’s lives throughout the twentieth century. In doing so, Theobald shows how this history continues through the present day, as Native women continue to fight for their reproductive sovereignty, in turn embodying the resilience of their communities, cultures, and histories.
Annabel LaBrecque is a PhD student in the department of history at UC Berkeley. You can find her on Twitter @labrcq.