Restoring the Blessings of the Morning Star: Childbirth and Maternal-Infant Health for First Nations near Edmonton, Alberta

  • Adrienne Dawn Wiebe Mennonite Central Committee
  • Sylvia Barton University of Alberta
  • Laura Auger Alberta Health Services
  • Em Pijl-Zieber University of Lethbridge
  • Caroline Foster-Boucher University of Alberta
Keywords: Aboriginal Health, maternal-infant health


It is not only remote Aboriginal communities in Canada that have poorer maternal-infant health status than Canadian averages; residents of First Nation communities located close to large urban centres also experience this health status gap. Alexander, Alexis, Enoch, and Paul First Nations are located within an hour of healthcare services in greater Edmonton. The narratives of 75 predominantly Cree and Stoney women from these communities were gathered through seven talking circles and five semi-structured interviews. The participants described their experiences of loss and separation as pregnancy care and childbirth moved out of the community and into the hospital over the last two generations. This shift was not only a geographic relocation; it also disconnected the childbirth experience from elders, family and community, traditional teachings, and spiritual meaning. Conversely, the participants’ hospital experiences were characterized by a limited sense of cultural safety. Participants highlighted the urgent need to reintegrate culturally based community support and health perspectives into the childbirth experience. The implementation of such a culturally integrated healthcare model in all Aboriginal communities—remote, rural, suburban, and urban—may be the key finally to closing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal maternal and infant health status in Canada.

Author Biographies

Adrienne Dawn Wiebe, Mennonite Central Committee
Currently a Program Coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee Alberta. At the time of the research for this paper, I was Program Development Coordinator, Aboriginal Health, Alberta Health Services
Sylvia Barton, University of Alberta
Associate Professor, Faculty of Nursing
Laura Auger, Alberta Health Services
Aboriginal Health Coordinator, Sturgeon Community Hospital, Stony Plain, Alberta
Em Pijl-Zieber, University of Lethbridge
Instructor, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Lethbridge
Caroline Foster-Boucher, University of Alberta
Instructor and Aboriginal Nursing Coordinator, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta.