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Organizer of protests against Dakota Access and Keystone pipeline projects dies

Joye Braun, 53, died Sunday, Nov. 13, at her home in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, her obituary said.

Woman stands in front of teepees
Joye Braun, shown in October 2016, was one of the main organizers of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest at Standing Rock in North Dakota. She died November 13, 2022, at her home in Eagle Butte, South Dakota.
Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune
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EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. — An advocate for Native American rights and a key figure in protests of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines has died.

Joye Braun died Sunday, Nov. 13, at age 53 in her home in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, according to an obituary posted to the Charlie Rooks Funeral Home website.

She was a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux.

Indian Country Today reported Braun’s teepee was the first to go up at what became the Oceti Sakowin camp on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in south-central North Dakota, site of the Dakota Access pipeline protest.

The protest began in April 2016 against plans to run the oil pipeline under Lake Oahe, which opponents said would jeopardize the reservation’s primary water source and damage sacred sites near the lake.

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Braun told The Forum in December 2016 that when she and her cousin first started camping, she thought maybe 200 or 300 people would join their fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

She said she could have never predicted that the camp's population would swell into the thousands and gain support around the world.

The National Guard and law enforcement officers removed the last remaining protesters in February 2017.

Braun’s obituary said she was the last to leave Oceti Sakowin Camp when it was closed.

The Dakota Access pipeline was completed later that year, carrying oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region through South Dakota and Iowa to a terminal in Illinois.

The Keystone XL pipeline project, in contrast, was officially abandoned by its Canadian corporate backer in 2021 after President Joe Biden denied a key permit for the project.

Seeing the Keystone project defeated was one of Braun’s proudest accomplishments, her daughter, Morgan Brings Plenty, told Indian Country Today.

Braun could get into a zone she called “General Joye,” making sure to get things done in a certain time frame, Brings Plenty said.

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Braun later worked as a national pipeline organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network and was the organization’s representative in People vs. Fossil Fuels, a coalition of more than 1,200 groups calling on the federal government to declare a climate emergency.

Her obituary said, as part of that role, she mentored youth to use their voices to stand up against environmental and other threats in their home territories.

Kandi White, program director for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a release that Braun’s advice and counsel was sought by many.

“She could always be counted on to speak the truth, and she pulled no punches. For this, and so much more, she was respected by colleagues and adversaries alike,” White said.

Huebner is a 35+ year veteran of broadcast and print journalism in Fargo-Moorhead.
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