« Return to this article

Know the West

In the face of #MMIWG, Indigenous women fight back

On the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, girls and women box, march and continue searching for those lost.

 

Frank Kipp knows that teaching children to box is no more than a Band-Aid for the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (referenced on social media as #MMIWG), who are slain at 10 times the national average. However, options are limited when the justice system fails to protect the country’s most vulnerable populations.

Individuals are forced to defend themselves. For Kipp, that means using his boxing gym to teach young women, like his daughters, to fight. For the community, it means using every holiday, parade and event to not only celebrate but to also demand justice for their relatives.

[RELATED:https://www.hcn.org/articles/tribal-affairs-why-native-american-women-still-have-the-highest-rates-of-rape-and-assault]

The ghosts of the missing and murdered women refuse to be forgotten. They are silent guests at every function on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation — present in Kipp’s boxing gym, watching from the sidelines of celebrations, waiting in every parent’s darkest fears.

A group of teenage girls in colorful ribbon skirts — led by Kipp’s daughter, Donna — gathered in the cafeteria of Browning High School to talk about the crisis. They’re not quite adults, but they know the statistics that surround them.

Some girls box, some wear ribbon skirts, and some think nothing will happen to them. But whether they learn to fight or face the ghosts does not matter. What matters is why this crisis has gone largely unexamined by the justice system since this country’s inception. It is crucial that Indian Country does not accept teaching Indigenous children to fight as an answer to the epidemic. It is a Band-Aid, and Band-Aids cannot heal murder. 

Tailyr Irvine is a Salish and Kootenai journalist from Montana. Follow her @TailyrIrvine (Instagram and Twitter). Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.