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Arts & Life

From Lakota Country to 'Yellowstone': a Conversation with Moses 'Mo' Brings Plenty

"Yellowstone" publicity photo.
Moses Brings Plenty

Moses Brings Plenty may be best known for his portrayal of “Mo” in the smash-hit series Yellowstone -- which he compares to Dances with Wolves for the visibility it brings to Native America. He’s rode bucking horses, portrayed icons in historic documentaries and performed in the music group Brulé.

Recently he visited Eagle Butte and the Wolves Den Boxing Club – featured in the March episode of Dakota Life – run by his brother, Joseph Brings Plenty. SDPB caught up with him to talk about Yellowstone (no spoilers), growing up in South Dakota

SDPB: How are you doing?

MBP: Doing great. Long day at the office. Big office, about ten thousand acres, down here on the Missouri-Kansas state line. The state line runs right through it. I manage a ranch down here.

SDPB: That's what you do between acting gigs?

MBP: Yep, and between whatever else, public appearances, speaking engagements, all kinds of stuff.

SDPB: What type of work do you enjoy best or is it just all just different?

MBP: It all varies because it's all meaningful to me. Everything has its place and has a priority. Nothing is greater than the next. I enjoy the ranching aspect because it gives me a space to just think about everything and think about life. Even though it's busy as heck and very demanding, it still gives me my quiet space.

SDPB: Is it anything like Yellowstone where there's all kinds of gangster stuff going on?

MBP: No. None of that. It's mellow. But I pack everywhere I go, so it don't matter.

SDPB: What’s it like on the set, working on such an enormous hit?

MBP: It's like being with family. It's pretty awesome to see the love that people have for the show. Everyone on there deserves so much because they're all amazing folks.

SDPB: You've got a whole world on that show that's a Native American world, where a lot of times in big productions if there's Native American roles, it's maybe one. What's that like?

MBP: The last time something like this happened for us as tribal people was Dances with Wolves. For us to have that opportunity again where we're not just background or a brief moment in the story, we're actually part of the main story, we coexist with it all… It's absolutely wonderful what Taylor [Sheridan] has done with this.

He has a huge heart and he's always very conscious about our existence as tribal people. He knows the issues that we face. If he can share our story in a way that people can digest it, that's a great gift. Because so many people are overwhelmed -- not only us as tribal people, but those that want to help in any way that they can -- they are overwhelmed with all the issues that we still face. No one really gets an opportunity to learn who we are not just on the downside but also on the upside. There's an upside to us.

I mean, I look at what my brother Joseph's doing on the Cheyenne River Reservation. There's a lot of people like him scattered throughout Indian country that are trying to be that game changer for our young people. If I can do what I can to the best of my abilities and continue to always be that reminder that we're still here as tribal people, I'm going to do my part to the best that I can. I'm not in this for fame or fortune. It's all about bringing recognition to Indian country.

SDPB: Can you share little bit about your background?

MBP: I’m going to say [I’m from] Lakota country. We spent some time on the Rosebud Reservation, on the Cheyenne River Reservation, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, even in Standing Rock. We had relatives all over. So my folks, thank goodness to them, they made sure that connection was always there. And so we got to grow up and spend a lot of time with a lot of our amazing relatives.

SDPB: Were you also a boxer like your brother?

MBP: I used to dabble in boxing a little bit but that was more Joe's -- Joe had a natural gift for that. I was more of a wrestler and a runner. I ran cross country and track and wrestled.

SDPB: Was there a ladder that got you to where you are?

MBP: Riding horses. Horses saved my life. Because I thought I could ride bucking horses. I wanted to do that for a living. I wanted to ride bulls for a living. My dream was to be a world champion in the PRCA. I had a lot of heart, but I didn't have talent for it. And due to the lack of balance, a lot of injuries came with it. But I could ride horses and I started dabbling in doing stunts.

We have some stunt people from back home from Lakota country and some dang good ones. So, I was like, "Well, maybe I could just do that."

One of my heroes growing up was always Howard Hunter, Sr. He was an amazing horseman, an amazing saddle bronc rider. That realm was my go-to, or was leading the path that got me beyond our border towns of the reservation.

SDPB: You’ve portrayed some larger-than-life historic figures. Do you feel pressure playing that kind of role?

MBP: I played the role of Crazy Horse and I've been fortunate enough to play the role of Sitting Bull as well. And the pressure to portray those two great individuals was not ... I knew their story and I know the spirit that came with them. The pressure for me was not so much portraying them, it was more about how many jealous people are going to come out of the woodwork on this deal now? Because jealousy is one of our greatest downfalls. It is a greater downfall than alcoholism or substance abuse today.

If we as Indian people can just understand how good we could be for each other versus how destructive we've become. I mean, I had this conversation with my relatives. Our Custer today, our Seventh Calvary today looks just like us.

In our whole lives… when we are children growing up through the industrial education system, we've always been told to be ashamed of our true identity. It's wrong to be Indian. It's wrong to be Lakota. It don't matter which tribe, it's wrong.

And now today, you have people who will identify themselves as traditionalists, but man they are the worst critics. It's easier to deal with the non-Natives telling me that I can't be what I am. But when it's your own telling you to be ashamed or to keep things hidden, it's like, you know what? My ancestors didn't give their lives, didn't make a stand to be a secret. They gave their lives so we can be proud of who we are, with humility and compassion for all people.

I'm proud of who I am. I dedicate my life to honoring my ancestors to the best of my abilities. I grew up without running water, without electricity. I guess you could say I grew up in poverty. But because of the love and compassion and traditions that was being taught, I didn't know we was poor. I was eating commodity cheese and powdered eggs, but I was still proud to be a Lakota.

Here's the bottom line: I know they discovered bodies around those residential schools up in Canada. We had the same issue here in the States. There are bodies all over. Does that infuriate me? Yes, it does. But instead of using that anger to be destructive and burning bridges and denying allies, possible allies for us as tribal people, I'm utilizing that energy to be exactly what those children were told they could no longer be.

SDPB: What would you say to that young person, maybe from one of the communities you spent time in growing up, that wants to be an actor or performer?

MBP: Always believe in yourself. The whole world can have no belief in you, but if you believe in yourself, you will go everywhere and anywhere the Creator has dreamt for you.