Indianz.Com > News > People’s World: Fearless warrior Joye Braun walks on
Joye Braun
Joye Braun. Photo: Juliana BrownEyes-Clifford /
Water Protector and intrepid warrior Joye Braun passes on
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
People's World

A dauntless advocate of Indigenous justice walked on with the passing of indomitable Water Protector and fearless Warrior Joye Braun. Joye was the National Pipeline organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). She was a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota and passed away on November 13.

Joye was only 53 when she walked on, but in that short lifetime there was contained a storied calling of dedication, commitment, and warriorship. She was the first to set up her lodge at the Oceti Sakowin camp on April 1, 2016, in the snow, in the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Joye was a leading voice in the climate justice movement. She was a tireless advocate whose opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline was instrumental in its cancellation. Her advocacy led to groundbreaking alliances between Indigenous peoples, climate activists, and landowners.

Joye was also a prominent leader in the People v. Fossil Fuels Coalition, a developing movement of more than 1,200 organizations throughout the U.S. tasked with bringing an end to the fossil fuel era of history.

Joye was in addition a photojournalist, writer, grandmother, and last but by no means least, a revolutionary. She was also the first Indigenous American photojournalist for the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Posthumously, Joye was honored with the 2022 “Rose Braz Award for Bold Activism” by the Center for Biological Diversity.

It was an honor to meet and work with Joye at the Standing Rock protests in 2016. My wife, photojournalist/artist wife, Melanie, and I were covering the protests for People’s World.

Among our most inspirational memories of working with Joye was the motorcade protest to the offices of the attorney representing Energy Transfer Partners, the Dallas-based corporate owner of DAPL. Counsel for the corporation was attorney Lawrence Bender (no relation, of course).

On the morning of August 20, it was announced at the Oceti Sakowin camp that a motorcade demonstration was to be held at the state police blockade of the main road between Bismarck and the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The purpose of this direct action was to make a “grandmothers’ appeal” to the police to remove the blockade because it was hugely damaging to the Tribe economically. Sacred, blessed water was to be given to the police as a gesture of peace and goodwill.

But shortly before the motorcade was to leave, a change of plans was announced at the request of the Standing Rock Tribal Council because of negotiations with the state for the removal of the blockade. It was decided instead to protest at the law offices in Bismarck.

We left with a 60-plus vehicle motorcade and were joined by other supporters along the route. Upon arriving at the blockade, the police were friendly and cordial and accepted the sacred water and we proceeded on to Bismarck. Arriving at the law offices were cars and pickups waving tribal flags with hundreds of demonstrators.

A delegation selected to meet with the attorney found the doors to the building locked. Joye was the spokesperson and, using a megaphone, several times requested that attorney Bender come out to meet and answer why he was representing a corporation that would jeopardize the lives of thousands.

She also turned to the crowd and said loudly, “Where’s our media team?” Melanie and I had been circulating in the crowd and immediately answered loudly in unison, “Right here,” and rushed to the front doors of the building.

There was no response from inside, although to our amusement, we saw office staff sometimes furtively peeking through shuttered windows. I humorously commented to Melanie that there was little to no chance of the attorney stepping outside to meet with the delegation. Subsequently, it was reported that the law office staff sneaked out the back of the building.

Joye later remarked, “Going to the attorney’s office was good because attorneys, like everyone else, have the choice to decide who their clients are.” She continued, “We wanted to know why a law firm would put in jeopardy the lives of children, mothers, the unborn, and all people. We are standing up not just for Native people, but for all people.”

Such were the powerful memories of Joye on the front lines. Suffice it to say, the passing of Joye was not just a great loss for Indian Country, but for all of the country.

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty and working on a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war He is a consulting attorney on Indigenous sovereignty, land restoration, and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues and a former staff attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma (LSEO) in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

This article originally appeared on People's World. It is published under a Creative Commons license.