PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • The gripping true story of a murder on an Indian reservation, and the unforgettable Arikara woman who becomes obsessed with solving it—an urgent work of literary journalism.
“I don’t know a more complicated, original protagonist in literature than Lissa Yellow Bird, or a more dogged reporter in American journalism than Sierra Crane Murdoch.”—William Finnegan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Barbarian Days
WINNER OF THE OREGON BOOK AWARD • NOMINATED FOR THE EDGAR® AWARD • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • NPR • Publishers Weekly
When Lissa Yellow Bird was released from prison in 2009, she found her home, the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, transformed by the Bakken oil boom. In her absence, the landscape had been altered beyond recognition, her tribal government swayed by corporate interests, and her community burdened by a surge in violence and addiction. Three years later, when Lissa learned that a young white oil worker, Kristopher “KC” Clarke, had disappeared from his reservation worksite, she became particularly concerned. No one knew where Clarke had gone, and few people were actively looking for him.
Yellow Bird traces Lissa’s steps as she obsessively hunts for clues to Clarke’s disappearance. She navigates two worlds—that of her own tribe, changed by its newfound wealth, and that of the non-Native oilmen, down on their luck, who have come to find work on the heels of the economic recession. Her pursuit of Clarke is also a pursuit of redemption, as Lissa atones for her own crimes and reckons with generations of trauma. Yellow Bird is an exquisitely written, masterfully reported story about a search for justice and a remarkable portrait of a complex woman who is smart, funny, eloquent, compassionate, and—when it serves her cause—manipulative. Drawing on eight years of immersive investigation, Sierra Crane Murdoch has produced a profound examination of the legacy of systematic violence inflicted on a tribal nation and a tale of extraordinary healing.
Investigative reporter Murdoch debuts with a powerful portrayal of an unusual sleuth whose dogged pursuit of a missing person inquiry led to justice. Lissa Yellow Bird received a degree in criminal justice from the University of North Dakota, "though rather than working for the police, she spent much of her adult life evading them." Despite that checkered background and a history of substance abuse, Lissa became an advocate in tribal court and a go-to resource when people went missing on Native American lands. After Kristopher Clarke, who worked for a trucking company based on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, vanished in 2012, Lissa became interested in the mystery. Her investigations contributed to the arrest and conviction, in 2016, of James Henrikson, who had feared that Clarke was going to start his own trucking firm and steal Henrikson's employees. Murdoch deepens her narrative with a searing look at the deficiencies of law and order on Native American land, corruption, and the abrogation of responsibility by the federal government. Admirers of David Grann's Killers of the Flower Moon will be drawn to this complex crime story with similar themes and settings.