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Katsi Cook papers

 Collection
Identifier: SSC-MS-00528

Scope and Contents

The Katsi Cook Papers consist of information about Cook and her midwifery and women's health practice in the Akwesasne Mohawk community on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in northern New York State and on the adjacent Akwesasne reserve in Ontario and Quebec, Canada. The Papers also contain information about Cook's activism related to environmental contamination and human health and about indigenous rights and environmental justice. Included are materials about the Mother's Milk Project initiated by Cook in 1984 to document and monitor levels of PCBs and other industrial pollutants in the breast milk of Akwesasne women living near the St. Lawrence River. Documentation of Cook's environmental justice and Native American health activism is extensive, and includes writings, grant applications, surveys, reports, and statistical data, as well as articles, clippings, and publications.

Dates of Materials

  • 1977-2008

Creator

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to Katsi Cook's unpublished works; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Katsi Cook, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Sherrill Elizabeth Tekatsitsiakwa "Katsi" (pronounced Gudji) Cook is a member of the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk tribe. She was born on the St. Regis Reservation in northern New York State, the youngest of the four children of Evelyn Kawennaien Mountour and William John Cook. Her mother was educated by Catholic nuns, and died when Cook was eleven years old; her father was a captain in the U.S. Marines and a World War II fighter pilot. Cook was delivered by her paternal grandmother who was also a midwife. She was educated at Catholic boarding schools, attended Skidmore College from 1970 to 1972, and then transferred into the first class of women accepted at Dartmouth College. Soon after, stirrings of the American Indian Movement (AIM) sparked a "generational call to consciousness" and she left school. She married Jose Eugenio Barreiro, a Cuban-born academic and indigenous activist, and the first of their five children was born in 1975. She and Barreiro worked with the Kanienkehaka Longhouse Council of Chiefs from 1972 to 1977 and from 1979 to 1983, where she helped write and produce Akwesasne Notes and toured the U.S. and Canada with the White Roots of Peace, a "communications group" that Cook describes as a traveling university through which participants learned Native knowledge and imparted it to others.

Cook took up midwifery in 1977 following the Loon Lake Conference of the Six Nations, where control of reproduction was designated as a prerequisite to Native American sovereignty. In 1978 she undertook a midwifery apprenticeship at The Farm in Tennessee, followed by clinical training as a women's health specialist at the University of New Mexico. Cook lived briefly in South Dakota, where in 1978 she attended the founding meeting of Women of All Red Nations (WARN), and in Minnesota, where she founded the Women's Dance Health Project in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Cook returned to Akwesasne in 1980, where she practiced midwifery, helped develop the Akwesasne Freedom School, and founded and directed the Women's Dance Health Program (funded by a grant from the Ms. Foundation). When concerns arose among women on the reservation about the safety of breastfeeding, Cook started the Mother's Milk Monitoring Project in 1984, to monitor PCB levels in breast milk and to address the environmental impact of industrial development of the St. Lawrence Seaway Project, begun in the 1950s. The Mother's Milk Project is still extant and provides services and advocacy for residents of Akwesasne (one of the most severely polluted Native American communities), among them inclusion in the Superfund Basic Research Program.

From 1994 to 1998 Cook was a Lecturer in the Department of Environmental Health and Toxicology at the University of Albany School of Public Health. As a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University's American Indian Program during those same years, she also worked on environmental justice issues within the Six Nations Iroquois communities. In 2001 she served as the Dr. T.J. Murray Visiting Scholar in Medical Humanities at Dalhousie University, and she has lectured on the subject of alternative and complementary therapies at the State University of New York at Buffalo Medical School and at Cornell University.

Cook has participated in national and international women's health movements, including service on the board of the National Women's Health Network, involvement in the Nestle boycott, and work with Mayan midwifes in Guatemala. She monitors indigenous rights in the drafting of midwifery legislation and is the founding aboriginal midwife of the Six Nations Birthing Centre where she assists with student training, curriculum development, and community education. Cook is Director of the Iewirokwas Midwifery Program of Running Strong for American Indian Youth. Supported by a Ford Foundation grant, she is currently developing the First Environment Institute to restore indigenous puberty rites as means of advancing maternal and child health on the Akwesasne and Pine Ridge reservations. She is also conducting research with the Indian Health Service and writing Daughters of Sky Woman: A Cultural Ecology of Birth.

For more information see:

Katsi Cook's oral history in the Voices of Feminism Project.

Hoover, Elizabeth. Local Food Production and Community Illness Narratives: Responses to Environmental Contamination and Health Studies in the Mohawk Community of Akwesasne. Dissertation, Brown University, 2010 (in SSC browsing collection)

Extent

10 boxes (4.75 linear feet)

.105 Gigabytes (approximately 650 digital files)

Overview

Midwife, environmentalist, American Indian rights activist. The Papers consist of information about Cook and her midwifery and women's health practice in the Akwesasne Mohawk community on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in northern New York State and on the adjacent Akwesasne reserve in Ontario and Quebec, Canada. The Papers also contain information about Cook's activism related to environmental contamination and human health and about indigenous rights and environmental justice. Included are materials about the Mother's Milk Project initiated by Cook in 1984 to document and monitor levels of PCBs and other industrial pollutants in the breast milk of Akwesasne women living near the St. Lawrence River. Documentation of Cook's environmental justice and Native American health activism is extensive, and includes writings, grant applications, surveys, reports, and statistical data, as well as articles, clippings, and publication.

Arrangement

This collection is organized into nine series:
  1. SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS AND PHOTOGRAPHS (1977-2002, n.d.)
  2. SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE (1985-2003, n.d.)
  3. SERIES III. CONFERENCES (1992-2004, n.d.)
  4. SERIES IV. PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, (1977-2005, n.d.)
  5. SERIES V. ORGANIZATION FILES (1980-2003, n.d.)
  6. SERIES VI. PROGRAMS (1979-2002, n.d.)
  7. SERIES VII. SPEECHES (1985-2008, n.d.)
  8. SERIES VIII. WRITINGS (1980-2005, n.d.)
  9. SERIES IX. SUBJECT FILES
  10. OVERSIZE AND AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Katsi Cook began donating her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection in 2005. Periodic additions are expected and may not be reflected in this finding aid.

Acronyms

ATSDR = Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

EHSC of the URMC = Community Advisory Board, Environmental Health Sciences Center, University of Rochester Medical Center

NICHD = National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health

NIEHS = National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the NIH

NYDEC = New York State Division of Environmental Conservation

SBRP = Superfund Basic Research Program

WARN = Women of All Red Nations

Processing Information

Preliminary processing done by Burd Schlessinger in 2010 and Maida Goodwin in 2011. The contents of computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created. Some floppy disks were unable to be copied (see attached log file for more information).

Creator

Title
Katsi Cook papers
Subtitle
Finding Aid
Author
Finding aid prepared by Burd Schlessinger and Maida Goodwin.
Date
2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Sponsor
Processing of the Katsi Cook Papers was made possible with the generous support of the Bay and Paul Foundations and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:18-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2019-04-17: Description of digital content added

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Contact:
Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063