Indigenous perspectives on maternal health

Conversations from Wolastoq and Anahuac

Before European colonialism, the Anahuac was the area now known as the Central Valley of Mexico, which in Náhuatl means land on the edge of the water. In the same way, Wolastoq is the area referred to by settlers and government as the Saint John River, the unsurrendered and unceded traditional Wolastoqey land.

This is a continuation of a past conversation between Elder Norma Don Juan Pérez and Elder Opolahsomuwehs (Dr. Imelda Perley) on birth and community from an Indigenous perspective.

Wednesday, Sept. 27, 12:30 – 2:30 p.m.


Elder Norma Don

Elder Norma Don Juan Pérez is Nahua. She is a human rights promoter, popular educator and social researcher. From 2016 to 2019, Elder Pérez  was part of the Collegiate Coordination team and the Collegiate Council of the Continental Liaison of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMIA). She is currently part of the Council of Women Leaders for the National Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Women (Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas or CONAMI), a political project that was established in August 1997 to coordinate and strengthen community spaces in which women play an active and leading role. Its goals are self-determination, autonomy, justice, respect for pluriculturalism and the full exercise of the rights of women and the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Elder Opolahsomuwehs

Elder Opolahsomuwehs (Dr. Imelda Perley) is Wolastoqew from Tobique First Nation, St. Mary's First Nation and Houlton Band of Maliseets (United States). She is a cultural consultant for two Health Canada initiatives titled Oluwikoneyak Weckuwapasihtit (From the Womb to Beyond) within the maternal child health program and Ciw Wolakomiksuwakon (For Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit) within the Maliseet Nation mental wellness program. Her traditional roles within the community include sweatlodge keeper, medicine wheel teacher, sacred pipe carrier and keeper of the women’s ceremonies. To date, Elder Opolahsomuwehs has been acknowledged for her language and cultural contributions through many awards, certificates and medals.  Most recently, Imelda was one of Canada’s 150 Ambassadors and continues to share her language with Canada through language-teaching tweets.