Pihêsiw Crane shines as a complete force in their line of work and says it was something that just “fell in their lap.”
From Maskwacis-Samson Cree Nation in Alberta, but currently lives in Edmonton, Crane is a queer, disabled, full spectrum Indigenous birth worker and sexual reproductive health educator.
They do support in everything, from support in miscarriage, support in abortion, support in adoption, fostering, surrogacy, and also works with LGBTQ+ youth and other vulnerable youth.
They also teach sexual reproductive health through the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and works with a group called Indigenous Birth of Alberta whose whole focus is providing culturally appropriate care to Indigenous families while also incorporating traditional birthing practices with Western medicine.
“I’ve been volunteering with families, birthing people and babies since I was about 11. I used to volunteer at Red Deer Regional Hospital and I worked in pediatrics, maternity and NICU,” said Crane.
But it was when they were pregnant as a teenager that their work really started. Crane was 18 weeks when they lost their son and didn’t have any supports from within their community and within the hospital, which caused a lot of trauma.
Then one of their friends was telling them about how they worked as a doula and Crane thought it “sounded weird” until they were told what it was and found it was something they were doing for a while without even knowing.
“So I took the training on a whim. I contacted a trainer within Edmonton and it was just like, “Hey, can I do this? I have no idea what this is about. Let me do it.” And she’s like, “Okay.” Paid the money and did the training and absolutely fell in love with the work,” said Crane.
A year later, someone found them on Facebook and asked if they were interested in being part of an organization to provide support to Indigenous families and they agreed, which was the start of Indigenous Birth of Alberta.
Their full spectrum job began when Indigenous Birth of Alberta and NYSHN were emailing back and forth and decided to do a worker training for it, with Crane at the time both training other birth workers and also learning through NHYSN.
“Before NYSHN, I didn’t do any full spectrum. I did just births and I didn’t even know ‘full spectrum’ was a thing. And NYSHN came and it was really nice to be able to do training with other Indigenous people and to be trained by Indigenous people,” said Crane.
When Crane thinks back to the loss of their child and how it started the work they’re doing now, that it was healing for themself and for other people, and says they’re always learning something new.
Crane’s education about their career is huge and constantly evolving, but growing as a foster child in the system being bumped around made it difficult to properly receive a western education.
They didn’t receive their grade 12, but is currently working on it right now going to NorQuest College and upgrading on their courses. In the fall time they will be going to the University of Alberta for native studies.
“Which I am terrified because it’s been seven, wait, 2014 is when I graduated. So it’s been not seven, six years since I’ve been out of school. And I’m just very nervous,” said Crane.
But Crane has been through an incredible amount of obstacles in their life, from growing up in the child welfare system to health conditions, they’ve stayed resilient through it all — and credits the community for it all.
“I think really what gave me the strength to persevere and continue on and reach my goals was my community. Even though I was very detached, I always knew that they were there,” said Crane.
It’s also something she would tell youth who are thinking about leaving their community for the first time.
“Regardless if you didn’t grow up in your community or if you’re leaving your community, they’re always there and the one thing that I love about our Indigenous communities is they’re always so welcoming.”
Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this blog post.
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