Candi Brings Plenty has joined the American Civil Liberties Union as the organization’s new indigenous justice organizer for South Dakota and North Dakota.
As indigenous justice organizer, Brings Plenty works to build the ACLU’s public education and advocacy programs through coalition-building, leadership development, communication, and lobbying and is responsible for advancing the ACLU’s civil liberties and civil rights campaigns in the two states.
“Candi’s commitment to social justice, along with her background and experience in advocacy and organizing, made her a natural fit for this position,” said Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota. “The ACLU has wanted to expand its work on indigenous issues in the region for a long time. With Candi on board, our capacity to create change in South Dakota is bigger than ever.”
The indigenous justice organizer is a new position for the ACLU of South Dakota, spurred on this year in part because the “riot boosting” bill Gov. Kristi Noem introduced and signed into law in the final days of the 2019 legislative session without consulting South Dakota's nine tribes, many of whom have been vocal opponents of TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the “riot boosting” act and two other South Dakota statutes that threaten activists who encourage or organize protests – particularly protests of the Keystone XL pipeline – with fines, civil liabilities, and/or criminal penalties of up to 25 years in prison. A federal court blocked enforcement of the unconstitutional provisions of several South Dakota laws in September.
But pipeline protests and free speech are not the only area Brings Plenty will focus on. She also will be working to strengthen voting accessibility to tribal communities as 2020 approaches, focusing on the long-lasting epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and promoting Two Spirit inclusion, among other issues.
Brings Plenty, who identifies as Two Spirit – a modern umbrella term for indigenous people that recognizes there are multiple genders and that sexuality can be fluid – has a history of making change happen. As a Lakota cultural practitioner and through her spiritual activism, Brings Plenty works to bring her medicine to the Oyaté and advocates especially for the empowerment and visibility of Two Spirit warriors to reclaim their walk of life in the sacred circle.
Prior to joining the ACLU of South Dakota, Brings Plenty was the campaign adviser and executive proxy for the tribal president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the executive director of the EQUI Institute, a trans and queer health clinic, in Portland, Ore. She also was the founder of the Two Spirit Nation and led the Two Spirit encampment at Standing Rock for 11 months during the peaceful prayer movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Brings Plenty graduated from Oglala Lakota College in Rapid City and earned graduate certificates in public and nonprofit management and public administration from Portland State University in Portland, Ore. Brings Plenty is an Oglala Lakota Sioux tribal member and a descendent of Crazy Horse’s Band. She grew up in the Black Hills and on the Pine Ridge Reservation and is deeply rooted in her Lakota culture, spirituality and language.
About the ACLU of South Dakota
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.