Darlene Birch | Cree-Métis


Askihk Akohp Iskwew
Earth Blanket Woman

Tribal Nation



Darlene Birch | Cree-Métis

The Red River winds northward from its source south of the US and Canadian border to the mouth at Lake Winnipeg. The Red River is an ever-present image in the story of the Métis people. The people used to travel freely along the trade routes that followed the river and traversed the border. Darlene calls the Red River the lifeblood of Mother Earth. As a Cree-Métis midwife, she explains the connections of the waters of the Red River and the sacred and protective waters inside a mother’s womb.

Darlene grew up immersed in her maternal family’s Cree-Métis culture. Her maternal grandmother, Kathleen Normand, was born in the Red River Valley south of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and her maternal grandfather, Laurence Lamirande, was born in North Dakota. Her family lived in close connection to their culture and ancestral lands, gardening, hunting, wild harvesting, and raising a family.

Following family tradition, Darlene had her first child at home. At the age of twenty, she gave birth with the help of her husband. Indigenous midwives were oppressed at this time. There was no one to be found who carried the ancestral teachings.

What began with the claiming of her experience as a woman and mother became her life’s work. Becoming a midwife was an answer to prayer for Creator to bring a time when respect and trust in the innate ability to give birth would return. Darlene had 3 more children of her own, while caring for families, attending predominantly home births, and learning about the healing ceremony that birth is.

Since then, her passion has been the reclaiming of Indigenous midwifery knowledge and practice. Darlene worked as a curriculum developer and instructor in the creation of the Kanaci Otinawawasowin (Sacred Midwifery) Midwifery Program at UCN in Manitoba. Teaching brought her to her second home, the semi-remote community of Kinosao Sipi Cree Nation, where she established a midwifery practice and lived for 11 years.

Darlene developed lifelong reciprocal relationships with learners whom she mentored and generations of families that she had the honor of helping. She never doubted the direction spirit led her in or the commitment, responsibility, and discipline that were needed. In 2014, Darlene received the Oscar Lathlin Memorial Award for leadership in both defining and implementing models of self-determination. She is a founding member of NCIM, The National Council of Indigenous Midwives, and continues to bring an experiential learning approach to her mentoring and curriculum development.

Darlene lives with her life partner on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, Treaty One Territory, the homeland of the Metis.