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April 25, 2021: Sierra Crane Murdoch - Yellow Bird

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

Sierra Crane Murdoch is a journalist whose work concerns communities in the American West. She has contributed to This American Life, Harper's, The New Yorker online, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Atlantic, Orion, and High Country News, where she was a staff writer and contributing editor. Her first book, Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman's Search for Justice in Indian Country, was published by Random House in 2020. She is a MacDowell Fellow.

Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman's Search for Justice in Indian Country

The true story of a murder on an Indian reservation, and the unforgettable Arikara woman who becomes obsessed with solving it—an urgent, gripping work of literary journalism.

​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 often vexingly shrewd. 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.

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