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  • Buffalo's Fire

    Cole Brings Plenty’s last breath here marks his first breath in Spirit World, funeral unites community

    By Jodi Rave Spotted Bear,


    Family and community set for investigation and attention towards Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples

    Editor’s Note: Joe Brings Plenty Sr. approved use of photos prior to publication.

    In death, Cole Brings Plenty – a bright light among the Lakota and Indian Country – united family, friends, relatives, tribal leaders, the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation community in South Dakota, Haskell Indian Nations University students in Lawrence, Kan., and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives organizations from across the United States.

    In spirit, the presence of ancestors and Thunder Beings, the wakiyan, could be seen, felt and heard by a community-packed gymnasium in Eagle Butte, S.D. For three days, Sundance families helped lead prayer and ceremony lasting for two days of wake services beginning April 14-15.

    Funeral services were held Tuesday, April 16 in Eagle Butte followed by burial at the Brings Plenty Family Cemetery, Red Scaffold, S.D.

    For 16 days, the Brings Plenty family has been on a sordid journey. It began on April 1 when they were notified that 800 miles away, their beloved son was missing. Instead of being treated as a victim, the local police in Lawrence, Kan. treated their son as a criminal after an alleged domestic dispute.
    Hundreds of mourners from the Cheyenne River Reservation and across the country filled the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte School gym for the funeral of Cole Brings Plenty on April 16. Photos published with the permission of Brings Plenty family. Photo Credit/Jodi Rave Spotted Bear

    Then on April 5, the local sheriff’s department reported they found 27-year-old Cole “CoCo” Brings Plenty dead in the woods near Edgerton, Kan. A few days later, the Johnson County, Kansas Sheriff’s Office reported “no indication of foul play” in his death.

    For those who find the police story unbelievable, they say the fight for truth and justice begins now. “After he is laid to rest peacefully, then we fight,” wrote Danielle Nikole Reyn in a tribute to Brings Plenty published in his obituary. On the first night of the wake, more than 1,300 copies were distributed to those in attendance.

    “Those kids kept a fire going the day they found out Cole was missing,” said Brings Plenty. “They wanted that fire lit until Coco returned. Kids slept outside by the fire. When we walked up, the kids were there to greet us. They showed concern, they showed love. You can tell they were distraught.” The Haskell students kept the fire burning from April 1-9.

    Youth, adults, and elders highly regarded CoCo. Many people at the wake and funeral wore “Justice for Cole” and “CoCo” shirts, including many of the 70 Haskell students in attendance. Joe Brings Plenty credited the student-driven and other grassroots organizers for their tremendous support in search efforts.

    Cole Brings Plenty seemed on his way to becoming a movie star like his uncle Moses Brings Plenty. The nephew had a role in the “1923” TV series spinoff of “Yellowstone,” an acclaimed series where his uncle had a central role.

    Scores of people spoke highly of CoCo’s well-lived and inspirational life. He was a handsome Lakota man whose long, beautiful braids fell below his waist. On Sat., March 30, CoCo went to a nightclub with a friend after attending a Kansas City Royals baseball game.

    His hair wasn’t braided that night and it became entangled in stage equipment. A woman near him cut about 10 inches off the length of his hair. Joe Brings Plenty told Buffalo’s Fire that his son’s hair was “cut involuntarily.”

    It is a Lakota belief that a person’s hair gives them strength and power, and the involuntary cutting of his hair proved to be a bad omen. Delane No Horse and several elders said that when CoCo’s hair was cut, his strength was cut.

    Meanwhile, Oceti Sakowin tribal leaders demand a full, joint investigation from the Department of Justice and Bureau of Indian Affairs. At the funeral, Oglala Sioux Tribe President Frank Star Comes Out told mourners that he’s asking eminent tribal leader organizations, such as the Great Plains Tribal Association, Tribal Nations Leadership Council, the National Congress of American Indians and the Coalition of Large Tribes to declare a state of emergency for all Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples given alarming national rates of MMIPs.
    On Tuesday, April 16, the casket of Cole Brings Plenty rests before three tipis representing his family tiospayes. All photos reprinted with permission of Brings Plenty family. Photo Credit/Jodi Rave Spotted Bear

    On Wednesday, the day after the funeral, Joe Brings Plenty Sr. told Buffalo’s Fire his world has been scrambled since the death of his son whose Lakota name was Wakinyan. He said he had to push anger aside and make room for honor. Hundreds of mourners mirrored similar sentiments. The Cheyenne-Eagle Butte School was filled with drumming and singing for three days. Three drum groups sang song after song, eliciting endless rounds of akisas, or war cries, from the men and simultaneous rounds of li-li-li-li-lis, trilling sounds of honor from the women.

    Star Comes Out of Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Ryman LeBeau issued proclamations for Cole Brings Plenty days on April 16 and Aug. 18, respectively, on each reservation.

    “Cole ‘Coco’ Brings Plenty’s selflessness and willingness to help others no matter what the circumstances exemplified the true essence of Lakota leadership, humility, generosity, and humanity; his kindness, perseverance, and love for the Lakota way of life and culture will forever be remembered in the hearts and minds of the oyate – the people,” according to the OST proclamation.

    “Attending the burial of Cole Brings Plenty at the Brings Plenty Sundance grounds in Red Scaffold was one of the most spiritual events I have ever had the opportunity to witness,” said Ernestine Chasing Hawk, a Lakota who lives in Rapid City, S.D. “We were asked to turn south and wave goodbye to Cole when a bald eagle appeared above.”

    All gathered at the cemetery watched the eagle fly south and disappear on the horizon.


    Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe proclamation for Cole Brings Plenty Day changed to Aug. 18, the date of his birthday.



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