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TURTLE MOUNTAIN BIRTHING TRADITIONS
Midwives or the women’s mother or sisters attended the birth. The husband was present at birth only when no women were available or when some strong person’s assistance was needed; other male persons not including a shaman, were never present. Traditionally, a birth in the late fall or winter took place in the home wigwam. If, however, there were preadolescent children in the home, the mother retired to a small wigwam built for this purpose some distance from home. If birth occurred in the spring or summer or when en route, the mother retired to a place in the open where privacy was assured. Certain midwives were also capable of delivering still births. Women born in the 1920’s from Turtle Mountain reported that they were born at home with the assistance from midwives but they had their own children in hospitals.
The navel cord was sewed into a beaded buckskin bag. Beadwork was of no particular design nor were bags of a prescribed shape. Girls’ bags differed in no way from boys’. The bag was hung on the bow of the cradleboard along with toys. Later it was either given to the child or disposed of by the father if it’s a boy, or the mother if it’s a girl, in order to bring magical favors if occupational dexterity upon the child.
Densmore, an author who researched the Turtle Mountain people in the 1920's reported that the child kept the cord for its entire life. She said that the reason it were not kept the child would always be searching for something. An informant who became a mother in 1963 agrees with Densmore’s findings and keeps her grandchildren’s naval cords. Her own children’s navel cords were either burnt or lost. She explained that her grandmother informed her of this practice.
In earlier generations, to develop erect posture and to be vigorous the Chippewa tied their children to cradleboards. Also, the Chippewa swaddled their children with trade cloth. The Turtle Mountain Chippewa continue to follow the custom of wrapping their children.
Nursing and weaning
Babies were nursed immediately after birth. Babies were nursed whenever they cried, and not at set intervals. Commonly children were nursed for two years; some nursed 4 or 5 years, two at times nursing together. The Turtle Mountain women who had children in the 1940’s and after reported that bottles were being used by some mothers and that some women did breast-feed their children. Children were allowed to remain on the bottle or to be nursed for over a year. Some mothers allowed their children to go up to two years and that is also common today.
Source: Wallette, Jaclynn Davis. (April 1994). Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Women and their History and Their Childrearing Practices.Go to the next page on infancy
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