In our fight for Indigenous rights, familiar topics include land back and water rights. Less familiar is the topic of Indigenous body sovereignty. Body sovereignty is simple: each person has the right to full control of their body and decisions made about it. Body sovereignty promotes a positive and empowering relationship between oneself and their body. In our mission to change the false narrative around our menstrual cycles, body sovereignty plays a pivotal role in reclaiming not only our bodies but our ceremonies, the way we think and act about menstruation. It’s necessary to actively educate ourselves on the power of the womb and what makes our menstrual cycles so beautiful. It’s important to reclaim the practice of honoring our bodies with rest and care during our periods.
But where do we start on this quest to reclaim body sovereignty and celebrate the power of our menstrual cycles from an indigenous lens? Look to your healers. Within your community, your healers continue to carry the practices of your elders. Look to BIPOC midwives and doulas. They are experts in care. If none of these people are available to you, it is an opportunity for you to research ceremony from your indigenous background. Many Indigenous academics have been putting in the work to compile dissertations and theses of ceremonies and cultural practices performed during menstrual cycles that honor the body.
The narrative that menstruation should be kept locked away and hidden, that menstruating body is somehow dirty and tainted, stems from extreme ignorance. The best way to combat ignorance and change the narrative that we have been conditioned to believe is knowledge of our ancestral practices. Our fast paced world has convinced us that our cycles are no big deal, and that we shouldn’t let them affect the work that we do. In Indigenous communities, however, menstrual cycles were a monthly family affair. Partners and children took over the household duties. During this vulnerable time, menstruators were considered more powerful and needed to commune with other menstruators in a space away from the rest of the community, allowing the menstruator time to rest and focus on connecting their body to their higher self.
Could you imagine a modern day version of this practice where menstruators are once again held in high regard and given time and space to rest? Where young menstruators are celebrated with special ceremonies? Where there is value placed on the notion of body sovereignty and the ability to move through a monthly cycle without all the false narratives?
At Pua Mohala, through our Mahina + Me Retreat, we aim to create a community to address this gap by coming together and encouraging every menstruator to create ceremony and develop new practices through reconnecting to their ancestral attitudes and traditions surrounding menstruation. Whether it involves reclaiming ancestral practices or creating a blend of old and new practices that fit one’s lifestyle, the second annual Mahina + Me Retreat aims to Educate, Empower and Engage every menstruator to create their own monthly ceremonies so that they know and feel the power of their menstruation.