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Indigenous women's reproductive (in)justice(s) and self-determination : envisioning futures through a collaborative research project McKenzie, Holly Ann


This dissertation traces the process and shares the findings of a collaborative project with urban Indigenous women on the homelands of the Métis Nation and Treaty One (Winnipeg), Treaty Four (Regina) and Treaty Six (Saskatoon) territories. The purpose of this project was to explore: 1) How do Indigenous women living in three prairie cities (Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Regina) define and understand reproductive justice and reproductive sovereignty? 2) How do urban Indigenous women claim and exercise their rights to reproductive justice? 3) What changes to social and health services will respect and support urban Indigenous women’s rights to reproductive justice? 4) What political, economic and community changes will respect and support urban Indigenous women’s rights to reproductive justice? I engaged a collaborative action-oriented methodological approach, informed by Indigenous storytelling (Kovach, 2009), post-critical ethnography (Lather, 2007), Hankivsky’s (2012) Intersectionality-Based Policy Analysis Framework and Clark’s (2012) Indigenous Intersectional-Based Policy Analysis Framework. The study demonstrates that self-determination is central to Indigenous women’s reproductive justice, which is interconnected with sexual justice. Within the context of Indigenous women’s reproductive and sexual lives, self-determination is activated in intergenerational and relational ways, meaning that women and their relationships to kin, animals, communities, land and cosmos are the primary influences governing their experiences. Indigenous women determine their reproductive and sexual futures within a context of various sociopolitical forces, including: colonial policies, processes and narratives; inclusive and responsive care; and Indigenous survivance (moving beyond survival to exercise anti-colonial resistance and sovereignty (Vizenor, 1994, 1998)). This analysis demonstrates that colonial narratives of Indigenous women as hypersexual and irresponsible mothers place Indigenous women ‘at risk’ of violations to their rights to free, full and informed consent and free, prior and informed consent. In particular, Indigenous women experience patterns of healthcare and service providers coercing them to use long-term contraceptives, and undergo tubal ligation and abortion procedures. Indigenous women build self-determining pathways within these coercive contexts through acts of refusal, negotiation and sharing community knowledge. It is crucial to transform organizations and institutions through processes grounded in decolonizing aims to reduce the harms of colonial heteropatriarchy on Indigenous women’s reproductive and sexual lives.

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