Ivy Richardson wearing boxing gloves

Live every day like a ceremony: Ivy Richardson

August 31, 2021

Celebrating Indigenous mentorship at VIU

Vancouver Island University’s ‘su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins Aboriginal student mentorship program is celebrating its 10th anniversary in September 2021. In honour of this important milestone, we are sharing stories of people closely connected with the program every month leading up to the anniversary. Stay tuned for a celebration of this important milestone in February 2022 – when we hope to be able to gather in-person.

The ‘su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins program builds capacity for mentors to gain leadership and employability skills through outreach and mentoring activities. Students hone skills in self-awareness, communication, leadership, self-care and an exploration of personal values, with an emphasis on “telling one’s story” as a path to self-empowerment through outreach to others.

Since Ivy Richardson graduated from VIU in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts, double minor in Xwulmuxw/Indigenous Studies and Physical Education, she has been busy founding her own business, Red Girl Rising, as well as a competitive boxing team called Team 700, and co-founding a women’s empowerment group – Matriarch Resistance. Ivy, who is Gusgimukw and Nuxalk Nation on her mother’s side and Irish, Scottish and English on her father’s side, tells us more about her business, and what it means to live every day like a ceremony.

What made you choose VIU for your education?

My mom had moved us from Port Hardy to Nanaimo and her and my older sister were attending VIU, so I decided that’s where I would go as well.

Ivy Richardson portrait, smiling

How did you get involved with the Community Cousins? 

Someone came into my classroom and described the program and that piqued my interest. I think we were the second group to get training. 

How has being a Community Cousin shaped you as a person?

It was very positive. I’m not sure it shaped me as a person, but it gave me some opportunities and tools to build myself as a person, as an advocate and as a community member. The negative was my feelings of being left out. I felt like I wasn’t always invited to the table. The Community Cousins was a small part of it. There were a lot of opportunities, and I would show up to what I could.

Any other highlights from your time at VIU you can share?

I have a lot of fond memories of the Gathering Place. School was hard from an academic standpoint, but I was determined to get it done and I am glad that I did it.

How did the idea to found Red Girl Rising, your boxing, yoga and wellness consulting business, come about? 

I wanted everybody to be invited to the table. I wanted to create something that was accessible and inclusive. I had the idea for a long time, of a business that combined movement and community, and it just kind of build towards that and this is what I created.

Can you tell me a bit about your motto on your website – Live every day like a ceremony?

It’s personal for me, as I was searching for culture and ceremony. I grew up as an urban Indigenous person and was feeling disconnected from my family. I went to my mom and asked her, “Why didn’t you raise us in a cultural way?” I felt that something was missing. She responded, “Don’t ever tell me I didn’t raise you in a cultural way. The values I taught you and the way you carry yourself every single day IS culture.” Every day is a chance to carry ourselves in a good way. That is where that came from. Through my work in community, I see how the youth thrive when they experience ceremony. What if we carried ourselves that way all the time? This is an area I would like to explore more in a master’s degree. Identity is something I’ve dealt with as well and I need to move through.

Tell us more about Matriarch Resistance and Team 700 and how those two initiatives came about. What do you hope they both achieve? 

Team 700 was founded in September 2019 and came through work with the Youth Advisory Council, a council made up of Indigenous youth in care. Boxing is a big part of my life and I asked the council about forming a competitive youth boxing team with youth that age out of care. Team 700’s name came from the approximate number of youth who age out of government care each year in BC. The number is closer to 1,000 now. I received funding for the team that was cut so we launched a fundraising campaign to continue, which exceeded our goals. That will secure us for six-plus months. We have 10 athletes on the team, nine of whom compete. We train 5-6 days a week when in competition. The goal is to give youth tools to walk in a good way and a space where they can aspire for greatness, inside and outside of the ring.

Matriarch Resistance is a community of care for Indigenous woman, a safe space to gather for sisterhood, self-awareness and physical movement. Essentially it comes down to keeping our women safe. This is what it is about for me. There are people who are supposed to keep us safe, but we do not feel safe. It’s not only about self-defense but also self-empowerment and confidence in reclaiming your own sovereignty. It is a collective of Indigenous women to empower and lift each other up. Everyone can bring someone or a gift to be part of this table. After we started, we only got in a month and then COVID shut us down, then we relaunched online in March 2021. We are hoping to be in the community in January.

What’s next for you?

I have a lot of things I’m doing right now. I would like to get my feet under me and grow the programs I started. Moving forward, I also might do a master’s degree.

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