On July 31, 2018, 33-year-old Olivia Lone Bear, from Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and a member of the Spirit Lake Tribe, was found dead in a submerged truck in North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea. Lone Bear’s death is not an isolated incident – Native American women are sexually assaulted, murdered, and disappearing at rates far higher than other American women. Between Montana and North Dakota in the Bakken region, the problem has become particularly critical. As transient oil workers take up work and are placed in “man camps” or temporary housing units, attacks on Native American women have increased.
My previous reporting on missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada began over two years ago. With support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis reporting, I expanded this work in the Bakken oil shale (North Dakota and Montana) area. While humanizing grieving families, I hone in on why Native American women (and men) are targeted with impunity, how the oil industry is involved, and the complications of what “justice” actually means for Native American communities.