Reproduction on the Reservation

Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Colonialism in the Long Twentieth Century

By Brianna Theobald

288 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, 1 map, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5316-7
    Published: October 2019
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5317-4
    Published: August 2019
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5485-8
    Published: August 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5315-0
    Published: October 2019

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Awards & distinctions

2020 John C. Ewers Award, Western History Association

2019 Armitage-Jameson Prize, Coalition for Western Women's History

2020 Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Book Award, American Society for Ethnohistory

A 2020 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

This pathbreaking book documents the transformation of reproductive practices and politics on Indian reservations from the late nineteenth century to the present, integrating a localized history of childbearing, motherhood, and activism on the Crow Reservation in Montana with an analysis of trends affecting Indigenous women more broadly. As Brianna Theobald illustrates, the federal government and local authorities have long sought to control Indigenous families and women's reproduction, using tactics such as coercive sterilization and removal of Indigenous children into the white foster care system. But Theobald examines women's resistance, showing how they have worked within families, tribal networks, and activist groups to confront these issues. Blending local and intimate family histories with the histories of broader movements such as WARN (Women of All Red Nations), Theobald links the federal government's intrusion into Indigenous women's reproductive and familial decisions to the wider history of eugenics and the reproductive rights movement. She argues convincingly that colonial politics have always been--and remain--reproductive politics.

By looking deeply at one tribal nation over more than a century, Theobald offers an especially rich analysis of how Indigenous women experienced pregnancy and motherhood under evolving federal Indian policy. At the heart of this history are the Crow women who displayed creativity and fortitude in struggling for reproductive self-determination.

About the Author

Brianna Theobald is assistant professor of history at the University of Rochester.
For more information about Brianna Theobald, visit the Author Page.


"Theobald's use of oral histories and interviews with Native women makes for an intimate, affecting exploration of resilience under assimilationist pressures." —Library Journal

“Theobald has no trouble drawing a strong through-line in the book that illustrates a continuity of struggle for reproductive rights in Indigenous communities.” —Nursing Clio

“This book is extremely important for multiple academic disciplines, especially for those interested in American history and reproductive politics, and is essential for those wanting to expand their knowledge of American Indian women’s experiences, both historically and currently.” —Choice

“An important addition to the growing body of literature that explores reproductive justice issues among Indigenous people. . . . This book is suited for both experienced scholars in these areas and members of the reading public who desire a greater comprehension of the reproductive experiences of Indigenous women in the United States during the 20th century.” —Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work

"Centers the range of experiences of Native mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing. . . . By weaving a birth story into the recent protests against environmental injustices and broken treaties, Theobald demonstrates that maternal health and reproductive control mechanisms have been central to colonial policies." —Women's Review of Books

"A model for future studies. . . . This book will find a wide readership among a range of social science and humanities disciplines. I hope it will also be read by health professionals and by students and faculty in public health." —Journal of American History