Ivy Richardson’s Courage Goes Beyond the Ring
“I didn't know any female Indigenous boxers when I was coming up. I didn't know any Indigenous boxers, actually. I didn't see myself or my family represented anywhere. I felt like we were invisible people.”
Bravery and courage are sacred teachings that Ivy Richardson carries with her through her boxing, preparing for and facing the fear of entering into a ring where another person has been laying the same preparations as you. But for Richardson, that bravery has come from the person she has admired the most throughout her life—her mother.
In the seven sacred teachings, courage is represented by the bear. Even though the bear carries the courage necessary to face all opponents, the mother bear also embodies equal amounts of love as much as bravery and courage. The bear encourages us to seek resolutions through spiritual intervention and healing to face issues that emerge.
When I think of equal courage and spiritual intelligence, I think of a story I was told as a young girl. Male bears are known to kill cubs that are not their own offspring, but the mama bear uses her intelligence to keep her cubs safe by setting up a homebase nearby to humans. The mama bear works hard to ensure her loved ones are safe, and for Ivy Richardson, not only does she embody the courage of the bear, but she has inherited the power of love from her own mama bear—a love she compares to the Care Bears, grounding her in all aspects of her adult life.
Please tell us your introduction, the nation you're from, and the work that you do?
My name is Ivy Richardson, pronouns are she/her, and I live as a guest on the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nations. I run a nonprofit called Red Girl Rising. Essentially, it's wellness through movement. Basically, it's about making movement accessible using movement as medicine. Movement has become the vessel to share wellness teachings. Acknowledging that wellness isn't just the physical, but that's the mode of transportation that we've used, but we also look at the spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects of it as well.
Tell me a bit about your story of how you got to where you are today with the work that you're doing?
I've been working on the nonprofit frontline for almost 15 years now and I noticed a couple things through my work with the community. First, there were some gaps in programming. The other thing I noticed was how empowered and strong our communities are, but specifically I was witnessing it when they were attending cultural ceremonies, especially the youth. The gatherings of youth, and adults, too, everybody—I noticed they were really strong, people felt good, were taking good care of themselves, and then they would go home [away from ceremony] and it would be back to the norm. It’s easy to fall back into old patterns and not look after ourselves as well as we do during programming—we're not as happy, not as supported.
What I was seeing was that disconnect from how we carry ourselves in one space, and then how we carry ourselves when we're not in that space. I think that was the big aha moment for me was how do we carry ourselves in ceremony? What does ceremony teach us? Ceremony is not meant just to be in ceremony—there's those deep values, deep cultural teachings that are supposed to support our whole entire life, not just one aspect of it.
Movement became my daily ceremony, part of how I take care of myself, how I strengthen and humble myself. That's what movement gave to me. I felt like I was able to embody those deep cultural teachings through movement and I wanted to share that with the community. It's not just when we are in ceremony, it's not just when we are at the gym, but it's about connecting those two—how do we carry ourselves with everything that we've learned in those spaces in our day to day lives? So that's what brought me here.
Specifically, some of the programs I'm running—team 700 is the biggest program that I run. It's an all Indigenous youth boxing team. I was doing a contract for the Ministry of Child and Family Development at the time and I created an Indigenous youth advisory council. All of the youth on that council had all been in government care. I was competing [boxing] at the time, and the youth were really interested in starting something together. So I said, think about a name, and let's start a team—and that became Team 700; which was the number of Indigenous youth who age out of care each year in BC (the number is closer to 1000 now), and we wanted a name with meaning.
Outside of that program, I work collaboratively with communities. For example, let's say the friendship center wants me to create a movement program—we work really closely to identify what are the barriers to movement? What are the barriers to whatever the program is that we create together? Maybe it's childminding—maybe they don't feel safe going to the gym. So we create a space for them that they've become comfortable with. Maybe a setback is rides, so we provide free transportation. I have five different school programs running right now. I'm doing a little bit of remote bookings, camps. But primarily, all serving Indigenous demographics.
Tell me a little bit about your wellness session for the Seventh Generation Indigenous Wellness series? Which one of the seven sacred teachings does it embody?
For our wellness session, the teaching I embodied was bravery—which felt very fitting because the movement I shared was boxing. When I think about bravery, I think about being afraid but doing it anyway. If you talk to any boxer who’s stepped into the boxing ring, it is fucking terrifying. You can train yourself as much as you like, as much as you can, but you know, the other person there is also doing the same thing—they're trying to knock you out. I always say you don't play boxing. You play soccer, you play basketball, but you don't play boxing. Someone is trying to hurt you and that ups the ante a little bit. So I thought it was really fitting because it's terrifying. It's really scary to go in, you're by yourself, everybody's watching you. The other person is trying to knock you out, but you do it anyway. So I felt like that was a really great embodiment of bravery: stepping into a boxing ring.
I can imagine that! So how do you feel stepping into the ring? How do you feel coming out of it?
I guess it depends how the fight goes. But for me, I'm really hard on myself. I always think, what could I have done better? What could I have done more? There's a lot of self reflection, but also a lot of pride of like, you did it. You get in there despite feeling those feelings, despite being scared—you went in there and did it. So there's that feeling of pride.
Why is it important that we have Indigenous representation and inclusion within health and wellness?
I think that goes across the board for anything, and it's because it's important to see yourself. There’s this empowerment and strength to be able to see yourself in any space. Different people bring different things to the table, so we have to have things to serve everybody’s needs. If we're only going by one standard then we're missing so many other voices.
Was there someone that was that person for you growing up, someone that you saw in the spotlight or in community that you were really inspired by?
I didn't know any female Indigenous boxers when I was coming up. I didn't know any Indigenous boxers, actually. I didn't see myself or my family represented anywhere. I felt like we were invisible people. I'm at that age where I didn't grow up with a computer or social media, so there wasn't a lot of visibility at that time. But my mom inspired me—shoutout to Mom, always. She raised five kids on her own, and she's a frickin’ warrior. Have you ever watched Care Bears? She shoots love out of her chest—it just beams out of her! I have so much love and respect for her because she worked hard, she still does. She is a fighter through and through. She showed me how to fight, maybe not in the ring, but she showed me how to fight.
I love that! So what are the wellness practices or rituals that you practice within your daily life?
I have lots of movement modalities that I love. Boxing is definitely the primary movement modality, but I love strength and conditioning. I love lifting. I love running, I love yoga. Those are the things that I do. And then those are the movement modalities that I share with the community, too.
Why is it important that we embody these seven sacred teachings?
That ties into what I was witnessing within community—I feel like the seven sacred teachings are those deep cultural teachings. They teach us how to live a good life in a good way. So that’s why they're important. They've been given to us and we have to utilize them as a way to live—embodying ceremonies in all different aspects of our life.
How can the collective support and follow your work?
You can find me on social media, through my website. If you want to connect with me or book me, you can reach out through my email, website or social media. If you want to support the team, we're always looking for funding. We get all of our funding right now through grants, but grants are hard. It's not very sustainable. We're always looking for sponsorships! That's a big way that folks can support!
Written by Chyana Marie Sage