Tewa Women United has supported doula trainings since 2008. In 2018, they began conducting their own.

TWU’s Yiya Vi Kagingdi Doula Project started in 2003 with a simple but transformative act: assisting at the first traditional birth at San Ildefonso Pueblo in over 50 years. In the years since then, the YVK Doula Project has provided doula care to hundreds of families, with doulas trained through a variety of programs.

TEWA Women United: The Yiya Vi Kagingdi Story, from 2018, describes the program's beginnings and first 15 years.

A 2020 report from Tewa Women United highlighted the benefits of doula care.

But TWU’s approach to birth justice is unique, and YVK doulas needed training to match that approach. Drawing on a multi-year process of reflection, research, and extensive community input, YVK developed a doula training curriculum and certification program that focused on healing and addressed the needs of the local community.

Kathy Sanchez, a San Ildefonso Pueblo elder who is one of Tewa Women United's co-founders, is among the grandmothers whose wisdom continues to help guide Yiya Vi Kagingdi Doula Training.

The first cohort of Yiya Vi Kagingdi Doula Training launched in 2018, and included practicing community doulas re-training in TWU’s approach. The COVID-19 pandemic required a shift to virtual, and two more cohorts, one fully virtual in 2020 and one hybrid in 2021, were successfully conducted before TWU paused for reflection.

The seven month program nurtures relational-tivity and builds awareness while conveying core knowledge. While some other programs condense and deliver basic information in four days, the Yiya Vi Kagingdi project leads and supports trainees through a trauma-informed journey of reflection, connecting to cultural strengths, honoring ceremony and the sacredness of birth, and centering healing.

Tewa Women United’s Yiya Vi Kagingdi Doula Training Program is unique in offering site-based, regularly-scheduled doula trainings with a specifically Tewa Women United culturally-rooted lens. While the program’s main aim is to train more Indigenous doulas to serve in the Rio Arriba Valley and surrounding area, it values and seeks to serve others in the region as well – particularly those who seek to serve as doulas for families with limited access to services.

Interviews and focus groups with YVK-trained doulas, as well as with the project creators and facilitators, identified both strengths of and opportunities to improve the curriculum and its implementation.

Recommendations for future cohorts:

  • Staff with an experienced and dedicated training coordinator, and make sure facilitators have the skills and support they need;
  • Revisit format: is a seven month timeline ideal for participants? Fine-tune the mix of in-person and online content;
  • Make intentional decisions around scripted or unscripted curriculum and preparation of trainers to facilitate sensitive discussions;
  • Clarify process to identify preferred candidates and establish expectations;
  • Update curriculum to include doula care across the gender spectrum;
  • Address participants’ mentorship needs.

New idea from research: Integrate visits from regionally-practicing doulas to share stories from the field and provide a more realistic picture of what doulas will encounter and the resources they can turn to for support.

The Yiya Vi Kagingdi Doula Training Program, by design and by practice, integrates the wisdom and experience of Tewa grandmothers.

Research identified other assets Tewa Women United can mobilize to strengthen doula training and retention efforts in the region, such as:

  • Respectful relational-tivity with community, partner organizations, and funders focused on birth equity and reproductive justice;
  • Experience convening diverse groups (online or in-person) with a healing justice focus;
  • New campus with various spaces suitable for medium or small gatherings;
  • Commitment to opide: weaving together ancestral ways of knowing and contemporary knowledge from environmental justice, gender justice and reproductive justice lenses;
  • Twenty years deep experience in birth equity and doula care, providing long and wide view.