Meet Nathalie Pambrun: the first ever Indigenous woman to serve as President of the Canadian Association of Midwives
Nathalie Pambrun is a Franco-Manitoban Métis midwife who has practiced in urban, rural and remote communities across Canada and the world. Bridging environmental and reproductive justice movements at the community level she embraces a human rights approach that effectively respects the coming generations. She is committed to midwifery care that is accessible, equitable, and culturally safe. She was appointed President of the Canadian Association of Midwives (CAM) for the next two years and has served on the CAM Board of Directors for over seven years. She is CAM’s first ever Indigenous midwife to serve as President of the organization. Nathalie is a mother of three children and currently lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
My first job was… being a helper to my parents and grandparents and watching my siblings and cousins, I learned a lot about taking responsibility and caring for others.
My proudest accomplishment is… working with communities to re-matriate birth. Being a facilitator for re-visioning reproductive care, building relationships, watching the community take ownership, develop and restore Indigenous midwifery. It is such a rush to see the transformation of a community when life givers are honored.
My boldest move to date was… inviting the international midwifery community to examine damaging systems, to converge upon the voices of those who are marginalized, to build power in our intersections of reproductive justice and unite our voices to create meaningful action for Indigenous midwives worldwide to be meaningfully recognized.
A common misconception about midwives is… that we don’t have specified education and training and that we are all barefoot, doing home births without equipment waiting for some spiritual sign that the baby will come out! Midwives are highly trained health care professionals who specialize in physiologic birth and the management complications. I went to a university and studied midwifery in my four-year baccalaureate in science program. In Canada you can also train in a four-year Indigenous community-based education model that are competency based and rooted in apprenticeship learning. Midwives are about sharing information, empowering individuals to take ownership through active decision making in their healthcare and to support choice through advocacy at all levels.
“You are going to make mistakes, but stay invested in the community and in giving practical support, the larger vision will emerge from doing the work.”
If I wasn’t a midwife, I would be a… farmer. I love being part of these ordinary physiologic miracles. I like knowing these basic life skills and how to support and optimize healthy growth. I am fascinated by growing food and understanding the land and its cyclical changes from seed to harvest. Similarly, I like watching human life grow, understanding and enhancing health and witnessing the stages of transformation for pregnant individuals and their families right through to birth and early parenting and family adaptation.
My greatest advice… from my mentor Carol Couchie, Indigenous midwife from Nipissing First Nation was when I took over leadership of our association she said: “Just do it Nath, you are going to make mistakes, but stay invested in the community and in giving practical support, the larger vision will emerge from doing the work.”
My biggest setback was… losing my grandmother at a very young age.
I overcame it by… learning to appreciate my relatives and teachers who surround me, to keep asking questions to better understand my roots that keep me grounded as I move forward.
If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed… it would be my desire to always keep learning, knowledge is power.
I surprise people when I tell them that… I am constantly stepping out of my comfort zone because this is where I lean my most valuable lessons.
I stay inspired by… all the midwives that surround me they truly are unique humans who see the larger picture when it comes to health and really anchor their daily work social justice and change.
The future excites me because… I never know what is next.
My next step is… completing my master’s degree, I want to be able to meaningfully contribute to Indigenous health through impactful, action oriented, community lead health research. I want to transform academia to include and honor Indigenous ways of knowing and doing.