“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars” – Khalil Gibran
Kru Melissa Moses is a warrior and a survivor. Like many Indigenous women, girls, and two- spirited individuals on Turtle Island, her life bears the painful scars inflicted by a colonial regime of gendered, institutionalized violence. While irrevocably shaped by the violence, trauma, abuse, and coercion associated with the ongoing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) crisis, Melissa has never let darkness and pain dim her resilience nor eclipse her journey towards healing and acceptance. Strengthening her body and mind through the physical and mental aspects of self-defence, she has instead reignited the spark of perseverance and courage within, dedicating her life to helping others reclaim their agency, power, and voice.
Melissa’s journey begins at her roots. A Nlaka'pamux, Syilx and Stl'atl'imx woman born and raised in the heart of the Nicola Valley, Melissa is a proud member of the Lower Nicola Indian Band. Growing up, she battled the destructive impacts of unchecked, systemic anti-Indigenous discrimination and violence. As a child she experienced the soul shattering and numbing effects of sexual abuse and exploitation committed against her by someone close to her family. As a teenager she grieved over the brutal kidnapping, murder and rape of her cousin, and witnessed waves of pain and loss batter the foundations of her community. As an adult she endured further abuse and sexual assault from people in trusted positions of power, all while trying to fortify her crippled defences and process the trauma connected to her youth that left her vulnerable to further violence and exploitation.
Through all of these experiences, Melissa has never lost sight of her culture and heritage; empowered by the wisdom and guidance of her Elders and Matriarchs, she has used traditional Indigenous practices and teachings to inform and ground her approach to self-defence and healing. Understanding the immense fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and anger that Indigenous women and girls feel as victims and survivors of violence and abuse, Melissa has learned to cathartically process, channel, and release these emotions through self-defence. For the past twenty-six years, she has sharpened and honed her skills in a range of martial art disciplines, including Taekwondo, Muay Thai, Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Western Boxing, Jeet Kune Do, and many more. After becoming a certified Muay Thai instructor, Melissa was determined to teach self-defence to First Nation communities and secure the safety of Indigenous women and girls.
Her desire to protect those most vulnerable was soon fulfilled when, after 15 years of training and working abroad, Melissa returned to Canada in 2018 to answer the call of the National Inquiry into MMIWG. Coming full circle in her journey, Melissa returned to her home in British Columbia and founded Nicola Valley Muay Thai, her skill-building, self-defence practice. As founder, owner, and chief instructor at Nicola Valley Muay Thai, Melissa began developing and conducting self-defence programs that teach at-risk Indigenous women and youth not only the physical techniques and methods of Muay Thai and Brazilian Jui-jitsu, but how to adopt and cultivate a strong mindset of self-confidence and heightened awareness that is all too often excluded from teachings of self-defence.
Since the inception of her self-defence practice in September 2018, Melissa has established an after-school curriculum for elementary and high school students in Nicola Valley, and has had over 600 women and youth rotate through her programs. Giving back to her community has remained a key priority for Melissa who continues to receive requests to provide self-defence training to communities and women experiencing active threats and situations of abuse.
In addition to her work at Nicola Valley Muay Thai, Melissa is an active public keynote speaker and advocate for Indigenous women’s rights and wellbeing. In February 2020, Melissa was elected as the Women’s Representative for the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), an organization that represents over 150 First Nation Bands in British Columbia. As UBCIC’s Women Representative, Melissa is playing a vital role in advancing the equality of Indigenous women and girls in BC and Canada, implementing the MMIWG Calls for Justice, and addressing the concerns of First Nations communities around safety and wellness. In addition, Melissa is also engaged in the House of the Moon’s Facilitator Training Program, a holistic empowerment and self-defence training program. Acting as a House of the Moon Advisor, Core Faculty Member, and Founding Facilitator, Melissa is helping advance the program’s goal of eliminating the MMIWG crisis and healing the people and communities most impacted by it.
Ultimately, Melissa’s mission is resolute and powerful in its purpose: To help people strengthen their bodies and minds, as well as reclaim their agency and power, Melissa teaches a holistic and culturally grounded mode of self-defence that connects physical techniques with a strong mindset. Nicola Valley Muay Thai and Melissa’s extensive work to teach and establish self- defence programs in First Nation communities is a testament to this mission and her vision: Melissa sees a future in which Indigenous girls are loved, cherished, and protected – armed with confidence, knowledge, and practical skills, the MMIWG crisis is no longer a dark and looming shadow over their lives.