Five Questions with Indigenous Women Rising
1) What is your organization, and who, and what needs, does it serve?
Indigenous Women Rising is a collective of Indigenous womxn, Malia Luarkie (Laguna/Zuni), Nicole Martin (Laguna/Diné), and me, Rachael Lorenzo (Mescalero Apache/Laguna)- and we do not see ourselves reflected or included in reproductive justice movements. We are not a nonprofit or a business, we work as sole proprietors (for now). We center Indigenous health, ranging from LGBTQIA2S and pleasure inclusive sex education, abortion, pregnancy, and birthing options, breastfeeding, and substance use. We are currently working on curricula so we can share our knowledge about reproductive health and justice with our Indigenous communities. We also work on educating providers on the appropriate way to care for Indigenous people. Nearly every Indigenous person we know has a story about a provider asking inappropriate questions or making assumptions about our lives and bodies that have a direct impact on the outcome of care. That must change for all Indigenous and People of Color (POC) communities.
2) What is your role within the organization, and what has inspired you to do this work?
I am the founder but I am also an organizer; I don’t call myself the founder much anymore because my colleagues in IWR are shaping the work we do as much as I am.
I founded Indigenous Women Rising in 2014 shortly after the Respect Albuquerque Women campaign (an effort to defeat a 20 week abortion ban) because I did not see the Indigenous community represented at all. It was also after I found out that Indian Health Services was supposed to give out Plan B to anyone who asks but there was no equity or consistency in how it was distributed. Thinking about the conversations I’ve had with my mother, my grandmothers, cousins, my sister, women from other tribes who hear about what I fight for and who I center- I am fueled by those conversations. Last night (2/24), I was at my nephew’s birthday party and my nephew’s grandmothers from Acoma Pueblo were celebrating with us. One grandma thanked me for my work and said she is happy that I’m demanding that Native women be treated with respect in healthcare, that our Native people need IWR’s work and my political experience. That made me proud but also helped ground me in my values- we are not taught to do things for kudos, we protect each other out of necessity and we do work out of love for our people and families. It reaffirmed that IWR is on the right path.
3) What political and social change are you working toward?
IWR wants legislators to take seriously our needs in healthcare and to truly understand the root causes of our exceptionally high rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and behavioral health issues (hint- it’s a lot of institutional racism). It is our goal to ensure that legislators pass bills and appropriate funding to supplement federal funding so as to ensure Indigenous/Native people on and off the reservations have access to comprehensive healthcare and specialty care We also want to do better coalition building with providers, business owners, legislators, attorneys, and of course, Indigenous communities and our leadership, so we can work together to have real, impactful change to the quality of our healthcare and our health outcomes. I hope what we do inspires another Indigenous person to envision and create something better for their own community.
4) How can people access the resources that your organization provides?
We can be reached by email. email@example.com, we have a website (iwrising.org), and we have a phone number, 505-398-1990. We can help Indigenous people find an abortion provider and we can work with your provider to make sure you get an electric breast pump if you have Medicaid. We are currently working on our curricula to take to communities so be on the lookout for that!
5) How can those who want to support the work of your organization best engage with and amplify what you are doing?
We would love if everyone reading this would donate $5 to the IWR Abortion Fund via PayPal (use the email: firstname.lastname@example.org) or donate a box of milk bags so we can distribute them to a new nursing mom (these are not covered by WIC or SNAP). You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you can sign up for our newsletter, and post our fliers at your place of business. You can reach out to us and ask us more specific questions. We welcome guidance and expertise on coalition building, grant writing, branding, marketing, etc.