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Kolby KickingWoman 

Joye Braun was a firestorm.

A strong, fierce, lovable woman who fought and advocated for Indian Country throughout her life.

On Nov. 13 the Cheyenne River Sioux citizen died at her home in Eagle Butte, South Dakota at the age of 53.

Braun’s daughter, Morgan Brings Plenty, said she was a strong leader and someone who she admired and looked up to.

“She had this thing called ‘General Joye,’ which when she gets into a zone, she's unstoppable and she'll kind of be bossy and making sure things get done in a certain timeframe, so everything can run smoothly,” Brings Plenty said. “She was always full of laughter and she was always teasing people, making jokes, giving a grand old time of laughter and being fun; she was fun to hang out with.”

(Photo courtesy Morgan Brings Plenty)

Braun worked for the Indigenous Environmental Network as the National Pipeline organizer and was the organization’s representative in The People Vs Fossil Fuels Coalition, an organization of more than 1,200 groups pressuring the federal government to declare a climate emergency.

She was a dedicated fighter against pipelines, including the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. At the latter, Braun’s teepee was the first to go up at what became the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock.

Indigenous Environmental Network’s program director, Kandi White, was a colleague and friend of Braun’s. In a press release from the organization, White said Braun was the type of person that would “give her last meal or pair of moccasins to those in need.”

“Her advice and counsel was sought by many, she could always be counted on to speak the truth and she pulled no punches. For this, and so much more, she was respected by colleagues and adversaries alike,” White said. “Joye is/was the epitome of a Modern Day Warrior. We will continue the work she was dedicated to in her honor; just as she would expect us to. Our sister will be greatly missed.”

When at camp, Brings Plenty said she was always in her mom’s shadow and that the two always took care of one another. They enjoyed being on the land together.


Brings Plenty recalled a story where Braun made a raging fire in a yurt during a snowstorm that was so hot, Brings Plenty would run outside to cool off.

“She made it so hot in the yurt. We were just sitting in the yurt with our tank tops and shorts and sandals because it was just too hot in there,” Brings Plenty remembers. “And when it got too hot like I would just run outside to cool down she would just laugh and giggle and be like ‘I made it that good. It's like a little sweat in here, just too darn hot.’ and we’d just giggle and laugh.”

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That’s one of the things that Brings Plenty will miss, the “big and bright” laugh of her mother.

The two were very close, including living next to each other. They were also travel buddies, making trips to Washington, DC, Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Nebraska together in the last couple years.

Morgan Brings Plenty, left, and Joye Braun (Photo courtesy Morgan Brings Plenty)

They would talk throughout the day about work, random things they saw and shared funny videos each saw on Tiktok.

Braun loved to crochet and her favorite color was pink. Brings Plenty said she always had a big box of yarn and would make hats, scarves, blankets and afghans while watching her favorite tv shows, the new Lord of the Rings series and House of the Dragon.

“She loves dragons,” Brings Plenty said.

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She also loved the holidays, especially Christmas and Thanksgiving. Her pumpkin and apple pies were the best, Brings Plenty said, adding that because she is gluten-free, her mom would always make sure she also had snacks.

Unfortunately, the death of Braun wasn’t the only loss the family experienced last week. Just a few days after Braun died, her service dog Jack-Jack died as well.

“He was a good boy,” Brings Plenty said.

Seeing the Keystone XL pipeline defeated was one of her proudest accomplishments, Brings Plenty said of her mom, as well as being the first Native American photojournalist for the New York Times and Washington Post.

Although, her son and daughter were what she was proud of most.

“She was always saying the proudest moments was seeing her son and daughter grow up into being independent, young adults,” Brings Plenty said. “She was always telling people about my brother and I accomplishments, she was always proud of her kids.”

Braun is survived by her children, Durin Mundahl and Morgan Brings-Plenty; her parents, Sandra Frazier and Ellsworth Le Beau. Her siblings, Albert Le Beau III and Denise M. Le Beau. Her nephew Emmanuel Schryvers and niece Jasmine C. Le Beau. Her grandchildren Mya Le Beau, Quinton Le Beau, Junior Le Beau, Donovan Guerrero-Le Beau Jr.

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