Indianz.Com > News > ‘We were birthed from the Earth’: Two Spirit activist stands up for Native reproductive rights
Indianz.Com Video: Candi Brings Plenty land acknowledgment at U.S. Supreme Court
‘We were birthed from the Earth’
Two Spirit activist stands up for Native reproductive rights
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A chaotic and heated scene played out here in the nation’s capital as a Native activist advocated for tribal sovereignty on the steps of the highest court in the land.

Candi Brings Plenty (they/she), a Two Spirit water protector and land defender from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, opened an event marking the unprecedented loss of women’s reproductive rights with remarks in the Lakota language. But several counter-protesters — all of them non-Native — repeatedly tried to disrupt the gathering that was held on the second anniversary of the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Yet Brings Plenty, who was a prominent figure in the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, stood their ground. Holding an eagle feather fan and a sign in defense of tribal rights, they able to acknowledge the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank and the Piscataway peoples who have lived in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas since time immemorial — even as one non-Native went so far as to try and block others from witnessing the Women’s Strike event.

Candi Brings Plenty
Candi Brings Plenty holds an eagle feather fan in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2024. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Organizers tried to keep the counter-protesters at bay but the task proved difficult, since some of the non-Natives were using bullhorns to try and drown out Bring Plenty’s voice and that of others, including a local high school student who spoke at the event. After watching the chaos of yelling, shoving and pushing from the steps of the building for about 30 minutes, Supreme Court police officers moved into the crowd and tried to maintain order on a day where temperatures soared into the 90s.

When some of the noise died down, Brings Plenty was able to return to the podium to expand on the role of Native people as protectors — not just of waters and lands, but of their own bodies and their own reproductive futures.

“We were birthed from the Earth,” Brings Plenty said. “We have become the protectors of the sacred, the protectors of this land, the protectors of our lives — and that means we get to choose what is best for our lives.”

“It is our choice, our bodies, our rights, our lands that have been stolen,” the activist continued. “Our elders and ancestry, our culture, our language has been stolen, and now our Indigenous sovereignty has been stolen when you take our reproductive rights from us.”

Indianz.Com Video: Candi Brings Plenty on Indigenous womb sovereignty at U.S. Supreme Court

Although Brings Plenty concluded their remarks without major incident, law enforcement personnel had to take further measures because counter-protesters refused to leave the Supreme Court. Eventually, barriers were placed between those who came in support of a woman’s right to choose and those who came to try and disrupt the event.

Wopila tanka for being here,” Brings Plenty said, using the Lakota language to express gratitude. “Remember, you’re all standing on the shoulders of our ancestors on stolen lands, built by stolen people.”

On June 22, 2022, the Supreme Court upended decades of settled law by overturning the precedent that recognized a woman’s right to choose. The outcome in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was 6 to 3, underscoring how Republican former president Donald Trump — who is running again this year — created a stronger conservative super-majority by naming three justices to the judiciary body.

Since then, American Indian and Alaska Native women have faced even further restrictions on their ability to exercise bodily autonomy. Reporting by Jen Deerinwater, a Native journalist based in the nation’s capital, in Truthout showed that 75 federally recognized tribes are located in nine of the 14 states with total abortion bans.

Brings Plenty’s tribe is headquartered in South Dakota, one of the states with a total abortion ban. The Republican politicians who control the government there have adopted increasingly anti-Indian policies and practices in just the two years since the Dobbs decision. Nationally, Republican lawmakers have repeatedly blocked efforts to protect a woman’s right to choose through legislation.

In their remarks in front of the Supreme Court, Brings Plenty drew a connection between the conservative efforts and the countless Native people who go missing and murdered.

“This SCOTUS,” they said, using a common acronym for the high court, “all of those Republicans who are voting for pro-choice — they are perpetuating missing and murdered Indigenous wombs, missing and murdered Indigenous people.”

President Joe Biden, a Democrat who is running for re-election, and his administration have made reproductive freedom a major point in the campaign. On the Dobbs anniversary on Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke in Arizona, home to nearly two dozen tribes and to a restrictive abortion law.

“We know the former president Donald Trump hand-selected three members of the U.S Supreme Court with the intention that they would undo the protections of Roe v. Wade,” Harris said in Phoenix.. “And they did as he intended.

This past weekend, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who is the first Native person in a presidential cabinet, campaigned in Arizona as well. She too highlighted the threats facing reproductive rights when Republicans are in office.

“Our daughters and our granddaughters have fewer rights than our mothers did,” Haaland said at a campaign event in Flagstaff on Friday. “Reproductive freedom should be the foundational rule in the United States of America. Women recognize what’s at stake in this election.”

The focus on reproductive rights comes amid LGBT Pride Month. In addition to speaking at the Supreme Court, Brings Plenty joined other Two Spirit leaders for a historic convening hosted by the White House on Tuesday afternoon.

The event was the first of its kind for American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people. Haaland was among those who addressed the gathering, participants told Indianz.Com. The convening was followed by a Two Spirit reception on Tuesday evening that took place at the headquarters of the Indian Gaming Association near the U.S. Capitol.