Lawrence community comes together to support Haskell students traveling for Cole Brings Plenty’s memorial service

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More than 60 community members attended an Indigenous open mic and silent auction fundraiser to support Haskell students traveling to Eagle Butte, South Dakota to attend the memorial service for Cole Brings Plenty.

Brings Plenty, Mnicouju Lakota, was a Haskell Indian Nations University student and an anchor on Good Morning Indian Country. He was also an actor known for his role in the TV show “1923,” a spinoff of “Yellowstone.” Brings Plenty’s body was found last week after he was missing for several days. 

Hundreds of community members worked last week to search for 27-year-old Brings Plenty with the Haskell library serving as a community center and base of operations.  Students kept a fire going for the missing student and sweats were held in a nearby lodge.

Brings Plenty’s family traveled to Lawrence from South Dakota and were housed and fed by the local intertribal community throughout the search. Now, in preparation for the memorial service and ceremony for Brings Plenty, the community in Eagle Butte is organizing to house and feed around 100 Haskell students during their time in South Dakota. 

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Community members gathered to discuss the situation and plan for the next day’s search effort, April 3, 2024.

Moniquè Mercurio, director of operations for Art Love Collective, organized the open mic and silent auction Friday night to raise funds to support the Haskell students who are making the trip for Brings Plenty’s memorial service. The Burger Stand, where Brings Plenty worked, and Taco Zone came together with Art Love Collective to sponsor the event.

“These young people are traveling, not just to go to a funeral or a memorial,” Mercurio said. “They’re going to participate in ceremony with the family.”

‘This is a sacred thing’

Sierra Two Bulls, Oglala Lakota of the Pine Ridge Reservation, bonded with Brings Plenty over their shared Lakota identities and Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ. They joked about Two Bulls looking like Thomas Builds-the-Fire when she wore two braids, because of her glasses.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Sierra Two Bulls

Two Bulls was proud that Brings Plenty wore two braids. “We know the history. Wašiču cut our hair,” she said. “I appreciated him standing in his power, wearing two braids. It was very inspirational.” She especially appreciated the impact Brings Plenty’s braids had on young Native boys who are often shamed and bullied for wearing their hair long and braided.

Moving forward, Two Bulls intends to wear two braids instead of just one. 

Tokeya Waci U, Oglala Lakota / Haliwa-Saponi, spoke about his experience cutting his hair after his father’s death. He said wearing his short braids in honor of Brings Plenty brought back a little of his spirit.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Tokeya Waci U

“We all have a piece of him that we remember,” he said of Brings Plenty. “He impacted you to think about your culture, think about what you represent as you braid your hair.”

“When you continue to take care of your hair, think about who you represent, how you represent your thiwáhe,” he said. “Remember that this is a sacred thing.”

There’s a lot of false information being spread’

On Monday, a social media campaign encouraged people to wear braids in honor of Brings Plenty. Countless photos and videos showing people wearing braids were posted across social media with the hashtag #BraidsForCole.

The focus on braids in the campaign was partially in response to rumors of Brings Plenty’s braids being cut off the night he went missing — an act that would be akin to a hate crime, as the cutting of hair carries deep significance in Native American cultures. Evidence uncovered by community investigators indicates that that is not necessarily what happened.

On Saturday, March 30, Brings Plenty went to the Replay Lounge, a music venue he frequented. Security footage shows that he had his hair down and was headbanging during Beneather’s set when his long hair became tangled in a microphone cord around 12:40 a.m. Sunday, March 31.

An employee of the Replay Lounge and a couple other people tried to get Brings Plenty’s hair untangled from the cord. He continued to enjoy the music while people were untangling his hair. After about nine minutes of brushing and untangling, someone cut several inches of his hair.

This screenshot from security footage inside the Replay Lounge shows Bring Plenty’s hair after it was cut, March 31, 2024.

Lawrence police alleged that later the same night, Brings Plenty was involved in a domestic violence incident. Sources who were at the Replay do not believe the accuser in that alleged incident was the same person who cut Brings Plenty’s hair, which is a rumor that has been spread across social media platforms.

Mercurio reminded the crowd Friday that “there’s a lot of false information being spread. A lot of things that haven’t been confirmed.”

They said that opening social media to a flood of misinformation and speculation discourages people from finding connection and support. “If you’re unsure, don’t contribute to that.” 

‘I’m trying not to be angry’

Jonathan Oliva worked with Brings Plenty for a couple of years. They attended metal shows together and felt a shared kinship.

“He’d always reassure me that even though I’m Latino and he’s Lakota, the lines on the map made by the colonizers don’t matter,” he said. “There’s that connection we have through colonization.”

Oliva also expressed frustration with how Brings Plenty’s disappearance and death have been handled and discussed by officials.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Jonathan Oliva

“I’m trying not to be angry about the way our local media and police department has portrayed him,” he said. “He’ll never get his day in court. I know something happened to my friend and I just hope we can get justice for him.” 

Although the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office says they have determined there is no indication of foul play in Brings Plenty’s death, Oliva’s sentiment is shared across Indian Country. 

“It needs to be acknowledged that we need to have better communication with our law enforcement,” said a person at the fundraiser who did not wish to be named. “They spun a narrative before there was a warrant. He was reported missing first. We were missing him first.”

After the Lawrence Police Department released that they had identified Brings Plenty as a suspect, “it halted everybody from looking. It stopped a lot of motion,” they said. “Those are the things that need to be addressed …  Those things are literally life and death. Because when that momentum stopped and the internet went wild with that, it caused a lot of disconnect with the support that our community had.”

‘Indigenous America is crying’

Brings Plenty’s disappearance and death have rippled through the Haskell community and throughout Indian Country.

Anthony Crowe, Tonawanda Seneca, is one of the students planning to travel to South Dakota. He didn’t expect to make many friends when he came to Haskell from New York, but then he met Brings Plenty during his first class.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Anthony Crowe

“In walks this guy with two long braids, dressed to the nines, earrings, jewelry, the whole shebang,” he said. As their classmates greeted Brings Plenty, it became apparent that he was a popular student. “And then out of nowhere, he comes up to me and is like, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’”

Crowe and Brings Plenty developed a friendship during their time together at Haskell. “He welcomed me in and made sure I was involved in whatever was going on,” he said. 

Crowe said everyone loved Brings Plenty because he treated people how they wanted to be treated. “My life is better off that he was in it, even for that short amount of time.”

Jamie Colvin, Tusekia Harjo Band and Hvlpvtvlke of Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, met Brings Plenty in the dorms at Haskell as a student.

“He carried himself really humbly. Good soul,” she said. “I hope that Hesaketvmesē is welcoming him home on his journey.”

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Jamie Colvin is embraced after speaking at the open mic event.

“I know I’m not the only one missing him and hurting. There are people all over Indian Country doing that right now,” Colvin said.

David Titterington, art instructor at Haskell, said that Brings Plenty “embodied so many of our hopes for Indian Country.” For many people, Brings Plenty’s pride in his culture and the goals he had set and begun achieving represented hope for future generations.

“We’re not only mourning his death but the death of all these dreams,” he said. 

“I never met Cole, but he has a lot of power. His arms have wrapped around the world twice,” said Kyalie Fixico, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Yuchi, Wolf and Bird Clan. 

Fixico is a jewelry designer in New York. She felt so compelled by Brings Plenty’s story that she drove to Kansas to help drive students to South Dakota. 

“Indigenous America is crying,” she said. “Tears have hit the floor so hard that it’s now turning into drum beats.”

‘Build what true allyship is’

Mercurio, Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation, intends to honor Brings Plenty by bringing attention to Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.

“Cole is giving us a lot of medicine to cultivate out of this tragedy, just like Nex did,” they said. 

Nex Benedict was a 16-year-old nonbinary student of Choctaw descent from Oklahoma who died earlier this year after suffering injuries from a fight in the girls’ bathroom at school. Mercurio organized a vigil to honor Nex and bring the local Native American and queer communities together to “build what true allyship is.”

They encouraged non-Natives who feel uncertain about showing up in MMIP spaces to “break those uncomfortable silences and ask those tough questions.” 

They emphasized the importance of allies showing up to help and expressed appreciation for all the members of the greater Lawrence community who helped search for Brings Plenty. They hope to see more collaboration going forward. 

More than 100 Haskell students are expected to travel to South Dakota for Tuesday’s funeral. Donations for student travel are being accepted through Haskell student success coach Julia White Bull, Hunkpapa Lakota of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (Venmo, @Julia-WhiteBull; CashApp, $JuliaWhiteBull; PayPal, @whitebull). Cash donations can be given to Manny King at Haskell.

Local nonprofit One Hundred Good Women also held a drive to gather bedding for students who are making the trip. They received 41 blankets and 45 pillows, according to a post on their Facebook page.

A nationwide prayer vigil is planned for 4 p.m. mountain time (5 p.m. central) Sunday as Brings Plenty is escorted to his ceremonial services. 

Words from Indigenous languages shared in this article:

Hesaketvmesē — Muskogee word for Creator

Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ — Lakota word meaning all my relations. It reflects a world view of interconnectedness.

Wašiču — Lakota word for a greedy, non-Indigenous person

Thiwáhe — Lakota word for family, especially one’s immediate family

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Molly Adams (she/her), photojournalist and news operations coordinator for The Lawrence Times, can be reached at molly (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Check out more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Lawrence community comes together to support Haskell students traveling for Cole Brings Plenty’s memorial service

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More than 60 community members attended an Indigenous open mic and silent auction fundraiser to support Haskell students traveling to Eagle Butte, South Dakota to attend the memorial service for Cole Brings Plenty.


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