- By Levi Rickert
BLACKFEET INDIAN RESERVATION — On Tuesday, June 30, ESPN will feature Blackfeet Boxing: Not Invisible, a story of how former welterweight boxer (38-6) Frank Kipp (Blackfeet) has been training young American Indian girls and women to defend themselves through boxing so they don’t become another tragic statistic.
Kipp was born and raised on the Blackfeet Reservation, and worked as a probation officer there, witnessing the damage to its women and girls firsthand. It scarred him, and his people. He decided to fight back in the way he most understood. In 2003, Kipp—a former welterweight who won 38 bouts as an amateur—opened the Blackfeet Boxing Club.
“I started seeing girls getting bullied. And several in their 20s wanted to learn how to take up for themselves because they were getting abused. We start hearing about young ladies getting taken from Indian Country. And so, I started training my daughter and I told her if something happens, at least you're going to know how to fight for your life,” Kipp told MontanaSports.com.
Since its inception, the gym has trained more than 500 boxers on the reservation, but for Kipp, over time, its most important fighters were the young women and girls, including his daughter Donna, who came in search of more than a heavy bag. They sought a way to protect themselves.
Kipp’s training Native females is much needed in Indian Country.
According to the United States Justice Department, American Indian women are ten times more likely to be murdered than non-Native women. More than one in three has suffered rape, or attempted rape, and more than 80 percent will experience violence at some point in their lives.
Blackfeet Boxing: Not Invisible short film follows two Blackfeet girls, Donna Kipp and Mamie Kennedy, as they learn to box, while facing challenges that afflict so many on the reservation — family dysfunction, substance abuse and the threat of danger, abduction and murder.
In addition to preparing young women to defend themselves, Kipp seeks to bring out the competitive spirit boxing can bring. His daughter, Donna, is determined to qualify for the Junior Olympics.
Kennedy is among the youngest and most ferocious fighters Frank has ever seen in his 18 years as a trainer. But her greatest fight is symbolic of so many other girls on the reservation—as she struggles with deep family dysfunction, the temptation of drinking and drugs, and her own uncertainty as a boxer.
Kipp and Kennedy train with the looming shadow of one Blackfeet Reservation girl who never made it to the gym, Ashley Loring Heavyrunner. Since her disappearance in June 2017, Loring Heavyrunner’s family has continuously searched for her while fighting for justice and recognition in the face of indifference from state and federal governments.
Blackfeet Boxing: Not Invisible was produced by Kristen Lappas.
More Stories Like ThisREPORT: Amazon.com partnering with Puyallup Tribe to Build Sorting Center on Tribal Lands near Tacoma, Wash.
Washington Tribe Waits to Resume Whaling
Indian Country Remembers Contributions of Rep. Dale Kildee Who Passed Away Last Week
Chumash Culture Day to be streamed on Facebook Live
Funding Available for Native Cultural Institutions
Native Perspective. Native Voices. Native News.
We launched Native News Online because the mainstream media often overlooks news that is important is Native people. We believe that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. We hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.