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“Blackfeet Boxing: Not Invisible” to air on ESPN on Tuesday.

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.

KippFrank Kipp trains Native females to defend themselves through boxing.

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.

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About The Author
Levi Rickert
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Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected]