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Opinion. On Easter evening, I first noticed a post on Facebook telling the public that Cole Brings Plenty was missing. The following day, on Monday, the story broke that his family reported him missing to local law enforcement in Lawrence, Kansas.

During the week, Native News Online published several stories about the missing Lakota citizen and actor.  

On Tuesday, one day after his family reported him missing to the Lawrence Police, that agency issued a statement posted on its Facebook page it had "submitted an affidavit to the District Attorney for the arrest of Cole after an incident Sunday morning at an apartment in Lawrence." 

According to the post, Lawrence Police officers responded to calls of a female screaming for help, noting that the suspect fled before police arrived. It is unclear how police identified Cole as the suspect.

By Friday we learned Cole’s body was discovered in some woods near where the vehicle he was last seen driving was discovered.

The Cole case got plenty of coverage in the mainstream media. Cole is a handsome 27-year-old Native American actor who played Pete Plenty Clouds in “1923” a spinoff of the television series “Yellowstone”, which also featured his uncle, Mo Brings Plenty. 

Cole was in Lawrence because he was a media student at Haskell Indian Nations University. He was an up-and-coming Native American actor with talent and a future ahead of him.

On Friday, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that announced Cole’s body had been discovered and crime scene investigators and the medical examiner were on the scene. It further stated that there is an ongoing investigation taking place. 

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Cole’s untimely death should bring awareness to a serious problem confronted in Indian Country. Sadly, it is far too common to see notices on social media about missing Indigenous people. There is even an acronym to accompany this epidemic: MMIP, which stands for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (sometimes referred to as Persons). 

Previously, the acronym was MMIW or Missing and Murdered Women. However, in recent years, the acronym has changed to include boys and men.

According to a July 2023 report by the Congressional Research Service, 82% of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) men reported experiencing violent victimizations in their lifetime. As of June 2023, 3.5% of the missing persons included in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System were identified as AI/AN, which was more than three times their percentage in the U.S. population (1.1%).

Often there are jurisdictional gaps that leave MMIP cases unreported and a lack of overall concern about the American Indians and Alaska Natives leave cases under investigation and unsolved.

The facts surrounding Cole’s disappearance and death are still mostly unknown. There are plenty of rumors, opinions and theories circulating on social media right now. But until there is more information from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office or the tribe, any other information is nothing more than speculation.

After Cole’s body was discovered, Deb Parker (Tulalip), CEO of the Native American  Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), told Native News Online on Friday evening her heart was crushed upon hearing the news of Cole's death. 

She recalled how Cole went to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. with his uncle Mo and the NABS team to educate lawmakers on the importance of passing S.1723 - Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act. That legislation calls for Congress to investigate the federal government’s Indian boarding school policies.

"Cole joined our team as an advocate because he understood how historical trauma impacts us in our daily lives," Parker said. "He was open, honest, and one of the most caring young men we have had the opportunity to work with in Indian Country."

"We continue to lose our young Native men way too early," Parker continued. She gave this advice:  "If you find yourself in a position that is unsafe, please don’t stay silent. Please reach out until someone will listen to your story. There is help available."

Cole’s tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, called for a thorough investigation in a release issue Friday that said, “The  Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe  demands a full and thorough investigation into Cole’s disappearance and subsequent death. Our Attorney General will be in contact with the Kansas Authority to ensure this is accomplished.” 

Given the fact that the Lawrence Police submitted an affidavit to the District Attorney for Cole’s arrest and now Cole has become a statistic among the far too many MMIP cases, we concur that there must be a thorough investigation into all aspects of Cole’s disappearance and death. 

After the announcement on Friday, there were many posts on social media that showed the grief Indian Country is experiencing from the news of Cole Brings Plenty. 

His death is one more example of tragedy hitting Indian Country. And, we know sadness comes with tragedy.

Our prayers go up for Cole’s family and all of Indian Country. 

Thayék gde nwéndëmen - We are all related.

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These stories must be heard.

This May, we are highlighting our coverage of Indian boarding schools and their generational impact on Native families and Native communities. Giving survivors of boarding schools and their descendants the opportunity to share their stories is an important step toward healing — not just because they are speaking, but because they are being heard. Their stories must be heard. Help our efforts to make sure Native stories and Native voices are heard in 2024. Please consider a recurring donation to help fund our ongoing coverage of Indian boarding schools. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].