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Organizers Fight To Address Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women In SD
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Candi Brings Plenty
Candi Brings Plenty
Courtesy: ACLU South Dakota

This week we kick off our SDPB May Spotlight on missing and murdered indigenous people. We welcome ACLU of South Dakota Indigenous Justice Organizer, Candi Brings Plenty, to 'In the Moment' for a discussion about their efforts to enact change.

Lori:
Let's talk about a little bit of that work, but I want to let listeners know that you also have, ACLU of South Dakota has an event coming up on Thursday of this week, May 6th, called the Fight Ahead. So we'll give people a little details about that in a few minutes, but first I want to look back a little bit. When it comes to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, we often hear, we hear missing and murdered indigenous relatives or missing and murdered indigenous people. What sort of advances did we see coming from the state legislature this year as legislation was brought by people like Peri Pourier and Red Dawn Foster, Representative Pourier and Senator Foster, to bring this issue to a greater awareness and actually take steps to do something to address the crisis.

Candi:
Yes. So this past legislative session was very much paramount and I definitely engage wholeheartedly both on that professional level with that legislative mindset and also to support our elected legislators who have picked up a lot of this work that has been here throughout decades. We can definitely look back into how it's impacted our communities and how the impact of just missing a relative or a person in our communities makes a huge deficit and what the quality of life looks like.

So to see, and to even look at the numbers, this morning I got on the Attorney General's website for South Dakota. There is a link for missing and murdered, excuse me, missing peoples of South Dakota. And so just to even look on that today, I was looking at the current numbers because we were able to recite the data for each county where both East River versus West River and to definitely bring forth some of this information to our, the widespread scene of our elected officials, to put it in their hands and to really look at this isn't just an indigenous issue. This is a South Dakota issue.

Lori:
Yeah. What are some of the things that you think need to happen next to address this issue? Awareness is really only a beginning.

Candi:
Yes, absolutely. And I feel like that's exactly what happened this past legislative session. And that's why I said it was so paramount because we were able to lobby, we were able to bridge the gap between those jurisdictions of tribal and county and throughout the state. And we got to put words to action and to really start creating policy and to even open up a space within the Attorney General's office to have a office of liaison, to be the point of contact so that there can be trainings that are implemented across the state throughout each district. And so that we can start to organize and move forward. And that's where my position now starts to take action as an Indigenous Justice Organizer. We definitely do start moving forward and bringing people together, building these coalitions and elevating the voices of those who have been doing the work.

Lori:
Yeah. We have been, on In The Moment, covering this story for some time now. And some of the stories I hear from people who have lost loved ones, who don't know where they're at or who feel that crimes committed against them were never fully investigated in some ways that most people would consider shocking. When you hear those stories, Candi, when you hear a story of somebody who found a loved one with a bullet hole and was told they died of exposure, and that someone just overlooked them as a human being, really, as a full human being worthy of investigating a crime against them, how do you hold that space of trauma and loss and turn it into action, but also realize that there is no justice for, or there is no closure for some of those life experiences. How do you kind of hold that and move forward with people?

Candi:
Yeah, definitely. That has been a huge eye opener for me since I've been in this position in the past almost two years now. And there is so much, and this is where that term in itself, indigenous justice, really is becoming defined by each community, by each state and what that landscape looks like. And for South Dakota, like I've said, just this morning, I did look at some accurate numbers, and we have 96 open cases in South Dakota that is listed on the Attorney General's website, and of those 96, 68 of them are indigenous. And that's like 69.7%. So pretty much 70% are indigenous folks. And a lot of times, that's where I feel like this organizing component does take a seat in creating what that could look like.

You just mentioned it, you hit it right on the head when you talked about trauma. Trauma is something that I really feel is motivation to build an open, a humane connection in our communities, because whether it's this pandemic or if it's unresolved trauma, that we do need to look into the resources of organizations, look into the aspects of coalitions who can start building and creating these infrastructures, or even just lobbying local policies, whether it's communities within rural areas or tribal areas, or even just city council, that we really do need to address how trauma does impact our students, how it impacts our communities and how a lot of our policies, when we really get down to it.

Since I've been in this position, I do see how some of them are driven because of the trauma within our communities that's not being addressed. And also to just prevent a lot of those, there is a lot of scarcity and resources, but I do feel like we need to continue pushing these policies that do allow us to be proactive instead of reactive, and to create the opportunity to prevent some of these issues that have been happening, that we are considering indigenous injustice.

Lori:
Well, ACLU of South Dakota is having a zoom webinar or conference. It's called the Fight Ahead. And we'll put information about registration up on our website, but you can go directly there @aclusd.org slash events. And that's coming Thursday, May 6th, and we're going to have more on missing and murdered indigenous people with Lily Mendoza here in a little bit. But we've been talking with ACLU of South Dakota Indigenous Justice Organizer, Candi Brings Plenty. Thank you so much for being here with us. We look forward to talking to you again.

Candi:
Yes. Thank you so much. Have a good day.