Vancouver Island University ‘Su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins Indigenous Student Mentorship Program celebrates its 10e anniversary in September 2021. In honor of this milestone, we share stories of people closely related to the program each month ahead of the anniversary. Stay tuned for a celebration of this milestone in February 2022 – when we hope to be able to reunite in person.
The “su’luqw’a” community cousins program builds the capacity of mentors to develop leadership and employability skills through outreach and mentoring activities. Students hone their skills in self-awareness, communication, leadership, self-care, and exploring personal values, with an emphasis on ‘telling your story’ as a path to empowerment through awareness of 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 building her own business, Red Girl Rising, as well as a team of competitive boxing called Team 700, and co-founder of 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 as a ceremony.
What made you choose VIU for your studies?
My mom had moved us from Port Hardy to Nanaimo and she and my older sister were attending VIU, so I decided that is where I would go too.
How did you get involved with the Cousins of the Community?
Someone came to my class and described the program and it piqued my interest. I think we were the second group to train.
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 opportunities and tools to build myself as a person, as an advocate and as a member of the community. The negative was my feeling of being left out. I felt like I wasn’t always invited to the table. The Community Cousins were a small part of it. There were a lot of opportunities and I showed up to what I could.
Are there any other highlights of your stay at VIU that you can share?
I have many fond memories of the Gathering Place. School was academically difficult, but I was determined to do it and I’m glad I did.
How did the idea to found Red Girl Rising, your boxing, yoga and wellness consulting company come about?
I wanted everyone to be invited to the table. I wanted to create something that was accessible and inclusive. I had had the idea for a long time of a company that combined movement and community, and it kind of built itself in that direction and that’s 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, because I was looking for culture and ceremonial. I grew up as an urban Aboriginal and felt disconnected from my family. I went to my mother and asked her, “Why didn’t you raise us culturally? I felt something was missing. She replied, “Never tell me I didn’t raise you in a cultural way. The values I taught you and the way you behave every day IS the culture. Every day is a chance to behave in the right way. This is where it comes from. Through my work in the community, I see how young people thrive when they experience a ceremony. What if we behave like this all the time? This is an area that I would like to explore in a master’s degree. Identity is something that I have also dealt with and that I have to go through.
Tell us more about Matriarch Resistance and Team 700 and how these two initiatives came about. What do you hope they both achieve?
Team 700 was founded in September 2019 and grew out of 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 have asked the council to form a competitive youth boxing team with young people who are no longer in care. The name of Team 700 comes from the approximate number of young people who are no longer in government care each year in British Columbia. The number is closer to 1,000 now. I received funding for the team that was cut so we started a fundraising campaign to continue, which exceeded our goals. This will assure us for more than six months. We have 10 athletes on the team, nine of which are competing. We train 5 to 6 days a week in competition. The goal is to give young people the tools to walk the right way and a space where they can aspire to greatness, inside and outside the ring.
Matriarch Resistance is a caring community for Indigenous women, a safe space to come together for fellowship, self-awareness and physical movement. Essentially, it’s about ensuring the safety of our women. This is what it is for me. There are people who are supposed to keep us safe, but we don’t feel safe. It is not only about self-defense, but also about empowerment and confidence in reclaiming your own sovereignty. It is a collective of indigenous women to empower and uplift each other. Anyone can bring someone or a gift to be part of this table. After starting we only had one month, then COVID shut us down, then relaunched online in March 2021. We hope to be in the community in January.
What’s the next step for you?
I have a lot of things I’m doing right now. I would like to put my foot under my feet and develop the programs that I have started. In the future, I could also do a master’s degree.