Mother's Milk Project

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In her book All Our Relations, Winona La Duke sheds light on the issue of PCB's and the fact that these toxins are accumulated via water, and they are stored in body fat and excreted through breast milk. These toxins are being pumped into the water by multi-million dollar corporations such as General Motors, and other industrial plants located near the Mohawk reservation in upstate New York. Katsi Cook, a Mohawk woman, became curious as to if and how this would effect the babies being breast fed by other Mohawk women. This curiosity was the basis for the founding of the Mother's Milk Project, something that still is used to inform pregnant and breastfeeding woman of the dangers of PCB's and other dangerous contaminants.

In 1985, Katsi helped with the creation of the Akwesasne Mother's Milk Project. The project was designed to "understand and characterize how toxic contaminants have moved through the local food chain, including mothers' milk," also stating that another goal was to get woman within the community to learn how to apply science in their everyday lives. The research project was funded by the U.S. Congress, and studied 50 new mothers over several years. The project showed a 200% greater concentration of PCB's in the breast mild of mothers eating fish from the St. Lawrence River near the reservation as opposed to the general population.

Mohawk mothers, much to their outrage, were told to continue breast feeding by Mohawk officials despite the project's finding. Katsi stated, "Our traditional lifestyle has been completely disrupted, and we have been forced to protect our future generations....Although we are relieved that our responsible choices at the present protect our babies, this does not preclude the corporate responsibility of General Motors and other local industries to clean up the site."

It is not fair for the mothers and their babies are being punished by General Motors and the other industrial plants located near the reservation. Though they have stood up against GM, it is an ongoing battle. It is our job as caring individuals to not only inform other woman of the harmful effects of toxic chemicals in breast milk, but to also support the Mohawk woman in their attempts to take down GM. This isn't something that just effects Mohawk mothers, but all mothers, as the contaminants can get into the water all over the world. By visiting the Mothers Milk Project website at , one can learn all of the facts related to the harmful toxins being found in breast milk. There is also information on how to give a milk sample for testing, as well as important events coming up for the project. "We believe 'breast is best' and our babies should be protected from insidious contaminants" said Nancy Burton, co-founder of the Mother's Milk Project. This project is very important and I strongly urge anyone to read up on it and inform others, with the hopes that knowledge really is power, and that a change can be made in the environment by standing together and standing up.


La Duke, Winona. All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Cambridge, MA: South End, 1999. Print.

"Mothers Milk Project." Mothers Milk Project. Web. 27 Apr. 2012. <>.

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