Reproduction on the Reservation: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Colonialism in the Long Twentieth Century

Univ. of North Carolina. (Critical Indigeneities). Oct. 2019. 288p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781469653150. $90; pap. ISBN 9781469653167. $29.95. SOC SCI
Theobald (history, Univ. of Rochester) presents a thoroughly researched study into the ways that Native women in the United States have resisted and subverted government efforts to usurp their reproductive autonomy. Beginning with the establishment of reservations in the late 19th century and continuing through the present day, Theobald illustrates how government efforts to interfere with traditional Native reproductive practices have served an assimilationist agenda by attempting to undercut the influence of Native midwives and healers. In chapters that alternate between a focus on nationwide policies and detailed examinations of the Crow Reservation, MT, the author shows how Native women continued to employ traditional reproductive medicine while also taking advantage of reservation hospitals and birth control. Inadequate access to medical services and periods of coercive sterilization by reservation doctors in the 1930s and 1970s inspired Native women to organize clubs and health committees to advocate for women’s health care needs, as well as encouraged Native women to enter the medical profession.
VERDICT Theobald’s use of oral histories and interviews with Native women makes for an intimate, affecting exploration of resilience under assimilationist pressures.

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