Kola Shippentower Thompson is an advocate for MMIW/R (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives), a professional fighter in MMA with a Brown Belt and a dance fitness instructor. She established the Wisawca Project, which offers self-defence and safety training for women. Through the initiative, she empowers Indigenous women to uncover their strength and gives them the necessary skills to get home safely.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit of your journey.
My name is Kola Shippentower Thompson. My Indian name is "Tumhiya". I'm from Nixyaawii country, in Eastern Oregon. I'm an enrolled tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. I'm 32 years old, a Gemini & an Enneagram 3W2. I'm a Momma to 3 gorgeous boys. I'm a professional fighter in MMA, with a Brown Belt in BJJ under Professors Gustavo Pries & Jeremy Harrington, from Siri BJJ. I'm a Turn Up Dance Fitness Instructor, teaching since April 2020. Most notably, I'm an advocate for MMIW/R. As a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, I created and developed a safety plan in hopes of decreasing and minimizing the statistics of violence against Indigenous Women. As founder of the Wisawca Project, it is my goal to empower and uplift not only Indigenous Women but everyone and anyone willing to advocate for growth and change in regard to fighting this rising epidemic.
Tell us more about The Wisáwca Project.
The Wisawca Project was founded in 2020 during the COVID Pandemic. This Safety Training is a direct response to the rising MMIWR crisis. The Original People are going missing and being killed at a rate 3x faster than any other race in the US, and those who are supposed to help us are doing nothing. This safety training battles the ongoing victim-blaming and shaming placed on us by law enforcement and judicial personnel. This safety plan essentially "outsmarts" the legal system and says "enough is enough". Our hope is that with more and more individuals advocating for their own personal safety, they will return home every day, and in the unfortunate event that they don't, we have what we need to bring them back home safely and more swiftly. This safety training is for everyone and anyone wanting to take more tangible steps in securing their safety and advocating for their survival.
What was the best personal or professional advice you were ever given?
"Tumhiya, you aren't going to get that apology you rightfully deserve. It may never come. But you need to forgive and move FORWARD. Holding onto that will make you an ugly person. Forgive without that apology and move forward" – Wapuninut, Leland Shippentower, my Dad.
Where or what is your happy place? How do you find peace?
Anywhere I can be connected with like-minded individuals. From the jiu jistu mat to the dance floor. To wherever home might be in the moment with my boys. Connection is the most important value in my life to those I'm most aligned with.
How do you take care of your body, mind and soul?
I like to fuel my mind, body and spirit with all the good things that refresh, replenish and challenge me. It seems counterintuitive, but when I've got the energy, I look for ways to level up in all ways. On the surface, this could look like meditation in movement (jiu jistu), dancing, hunting, gathering first foods, snowboarding, travelling, lifting or binging a Netflix show all weekend.
How important is a connection with nature for you?
As an Indigenous person, my whole being is engulfed with this rich and genuine connection to the Earth. As the Original People were placed on this land with the sole purpose of caring for it, it's something I've tried to continue to uphold. Carrying this lifestyle is a huge responsibility; advocating for natural resources is my duty. Ensuring my children know what an honour it is to have such a beautiful culture that carries us through this journey, deeply rooted and connected to nature all around us, is something I don't take lightly.
How do you take care of your skin?
I'm really hard on my skin, especially my face. I like to keep my face as bare as possible when I'm working out or training. I drink tons of water throughout the day to ensure it stays hydrated. I have a fairly strict vitamins and supplements regiment that I use daily as well.
Do you have any daily, weekly or monthly rituals?
Every day is started with light, gratitude and movement. Every night is ended with visualization for the next day. Every week I take a day to rest and recover. Once a month, I travel and plan for an extended period of time to be in nature.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Binge-watching serial killer documentaries or binge-listening to the Crime Junkie podcast.
What advice would you give your teenage self?
Never give negativity the satisfaction; your spirit is much stronger than any ugliness in this world.
Is there any book you love and would recommend people to read?
Green Lights by Matthew McConaughey
More Myself by Alicia Keys
Can you share one piece of wisdom with our community, something you have gained in your life, which will encourage women reading this to grow and find their inner strength and confidence?
Live your life unapologetically, do what makes YOU happy. Don't spend this time seeking validation from others, but rather affirmations from yourself. The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you've come, stay present and enjoy ALL of the big and little things. Keep your eyes ahead, strive for more and better, but remain humble and grateful. Wear the dang shorts, wear the dang crop top. Coffee always. And just buy the ticket!
WOMAN2WOMAN CAMPAIGN IS HERE TO INSPIRE AND CONNECT WOMEN ALL OVER THE GLOBE. YOU CAN TAKE PART IN THE CAMPAIGN BY POSTING YOUR STORIES WITH #WOMAN2WOMANFS ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA.
PART OF THE SALES FROM THIS ONGOING CAMPAIGN WILL GO TO SUPPORT WOMEN AT KIVA.ORG
Don't want to miss future interviews? Subscribe at the bottom of our website.
Share and inspire others! <3