FKylie Hunts-in-Winter ’25, bravery comes naturally. On her Instagram account, @bravewoman_, the champion martial artist shares self-defense skills to more than 119,000 followers, seeking to empower women.
Since starting to learn Kenpo Karate at three, Hunts-in-Winter has gone on to win national world titles in Karate, Jiu-jitsu, and Judo. She has a black belt in Kenpo, a blue belt in Jiu-jitsu, a green belt in Judo, and experience in Muay Thai.
Hunts-in-Winter inherited her Native American name — Brave Woman — from her third great-grandmother, a warrior who fought in battle at the age of 14. After her father died the same day, Hunts-in-Winter’s great-grandmother became the leader of her family.
“The concept is that we are all brave women and to empower people everywhere, and know that they’re not alone,” Hunts-in-Winter says regarding the mission of her Instagram page.
Hunts-in-Winter also serves as co-president of the Harvard Jiu Jitsu club.
“I've had people tell me it made them feel a lot better about coming to the club that I was there,” she says. “I know how it feels to be like the only girl or one of the only girls in the room.”
But Hunts-in-Winter’s work does not stop at self-defense. She is also involved in Indigenous rights movements and the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women movement. In high school, Hunts-in-Winter realized how connected her MMIW advocacy was to her martial arts training.
“Over time, everything that I’ve done is intertwined,” Hunts-in-Winter says.
Hunts-in-Winter has continued to advocate for MMIW in college. Her biggest accomplishment, she says, is organizing a rally for the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls this past May. With a megaphone in hand and red paint on her face to symbolize the missing, Hunts-in-Winter told stories of violence against Indigenous people on the Widener steps.
The rally, which Hunts-in-Winter says drew a crowd of around 60 people, was both a social event and an event for awareness. “I remember having multiple tourists come up to me and ask, ‘What is this?’ and ‘Why are you doing this?’” she says. The tourists were initially confused about the cause of the rally but were ready and willing to listen, “which is exactly why I do what I do,” she says.
As Hunts-in-Winter sees it, martial arts and MMIW advocacy concern the same fundamental principle. “They’re both about women empowerment. They’re both about the voices that aren’t heard,” she says.
Hunts-in-Winter’s advocacy is primarily about visibility for ignored and historicized people. “Native women would go missing and there wouldn’t even be a box to check that this dead body that they found is a Native American; they would just check white or Hispanic,” Hunts-in-Winter says.
According to the National Crime Information Center, 5,712 American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls were reported missing in 2016, yet only 116 cases were logged by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“There wouldn’t be any communication between police jurisdictions,” Hunts-in-Winter says. “If it was on federal land, they would just drop the case and not even investigate it, not even try.”
When reflecting on what people can do to support the MMIW movement, Hunts-in-Winter pointed to the importance of education. “Not everyone is going to be an advocate, not everyone is going to organize big rallies, and that’s not what we expect of people,” she says. “I think what I would encourage everyone to do is find the best way with the tools that you have to support the community around you.”