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An Update On Indigenous Milk Medicine Week

Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk (she/they)
Founder, Indigenous Milk Medicine Week (formerly Native Breastfeeding Week); Co-founder, Indigenous Milk Medicine Collective; Tribal Affiliation: Seminole, Pawnee, Creek, Omaha, Iowa

We are celebrating the 3rd annual Indigenous Milk Medicine Week, formerly Native Breastfeeding Week. Our theme is “Nourishing Our Futures.”

New Beginnings: What are the biggest issues or factors affecting the success of human milk feeding among Indigenous communities?
Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk: Culturally appropriate responsiveness in determining success measures. Cultural humility in determining discussions surrounding Indigenous Milk Medicine practices, research, and even request for stories or collaborations. Ultimately though, some of the biggest barriers are the ongoing consequences from the colonial disruption of traditional Indigenous kinship and lifeways. In my opinion, not only is racism a public health crisis, but so are the effects of settler colonization, forced land removal and theft, as well as the genocidal policies such as the assimilative practices of U.S. Indian Boarding schools (as they’re labeled). We must confront the root of disruption and acknowledge this trauma that exists while supporting Indigenous-led solutions which are rooted in ancestral knowledge systems and practices that can also be largely known as rematriation.

New Beginnings: How can others support and raise awareness throughout the year and not just during Indigenous Milk Medicine Week?
Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk: Follow the work of Indigenous Milk Medicine Collective (who sponsors IMMW) as we work to provide yearlong advocacy and programming. Additionally, learn about the land or territory you are occupying and develop a neighborly relationship with those Indigenous Nations that may still be residing within that land/territory. If there are other tribal organizations doing work in such areas as breastfeeding/chestfeeding, maternal health, reproductive justice, and/or rematriation, then please find ways to support them directly. Please make sure that when approaching such communities or organizations with requests to interview, collaborate, and/or give presentations, that you need to make an equitable offering for the time, labor, and knowledge you are seeking–that is, we are sifting through some heavy topics as well as navigating what medicine work that we can share of ourselves while preserving our culture.

Indigenous Milk Medicine Collective/Indigenous Milk Medicine Week can accept donations through:

Great Lakes Inter Tribal Council, Inc.
c/o Indigenous Milk Medicine Collective
PO Box 9
Lac du Flambeau, WI 54538

New Beginnings: Have the goals of Indigenous Milk Medicine Week changed since it first started?
Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk: The Indigenous Milk Medicine Collective itself is full of autonomous changemakers rooted in community so we know we are apt to evolve and grow and we can see how goals can change. When Indigenous Milk Medicine Week was founded, we did not have some of the language and understanding that we have now and so our approach was gender-based and we learned how exclusive and harmful it could be to all of our kin milk medicine-makers. Through community feedback, surveys, and comments, as well as in-house dialogue within IMMC, we knew we had to rename and call back a particular medicine space, and that’s how Native Breastfeeding Week evolved to Indigenous Milk Medicine Week. This reflection and action represents the collective healing that is happening in our communities even during this time of pandemic and social unrest. We are all on some kind of Milk Medicine healing journey.


Editor’s Note: For more information about Indigenous Milk Medicine Week, go to https://www.facebook.com/IndigenousMilkMedicineWeek.


Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].


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