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Watch the Dateline episode "The Secrets of Spirit Lake" now

Andrea Canning reports.

In August 2016, Carla Yellow Bird disappeared. She suddenly stopped texting and calling, and that didn’t sit right with her mother, Loretta, and sister, Kerry.

So they reported Carla missing to the Mandan Police Department in North Dakota.

Carla’s roommate said that she may have gone to a town called Saint Michaels on the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota, the day she stopped communicating.

Spirit Lake is a reservation that spans 400 square miles, and it’s located about three hours northeast of Mandan, where Carla lived.

Lissa Yellow Bird has dedicated herself to searching for missing and murdered Native American women. This time, she would be helping to find out what happened to her own niece.

And the information provided by Carla’s roommate, gave her somewhere to start…

Lissa and many others believe that, too often, the cases of Indigenous women are ignored. Lynnette Grey Bull, activist and founder of Not Our Native Daughters, agrees. Lynnette describes her organization and why the MMIW movement hits close to home.

Not Our Native Daughters

Aug. 27, 202102:53

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve in a presidential cabinet, says that tackling the rise of missing and murdered Indigenous women is a priority. "This is a crisis that's been happening in our country since colonization," Haaland told Andrea Canning. "I'm grateful that we're seeing some action on it right now."

In the past 12 years, Lissa Yellow Bird has helped locate dozens of people -- some came home alive, others did not.

Most families were grateful for answers, like the family of Olivia Lone Bear.

Olivia Lone Bear was a 32-year-old mother of five, who went missing in October 2017. She had been seen driving her teal Chevy Silverado pickup truck from Sportsman’s Bar near her home on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Olivia’s daughter, Haley Abrahamson tells her mother’s story, and how Lissa helped find answers for their family, even if they weren’t the ones they wanted.

Over the years, Dateline has featured several Indigenous women in the Dateline: Missing in America and Cold Case Spotlight series.

In the hope of bringing continued awareness to their cases and to get answers for their loved ones, we’ve compiled the unresolved cases. If you know someone who is missing or have a cold case you would like Dateline to feature, send us a message on social media.

To find her niece, Lissa Yellow Bird worked the phones and posted on social media -- trying to find the answers the Yellow Bird family so desperately wanted.

But Lissa’s experience searching for missing women told her that time had run out for Carla. It was now a recovery mission…

With violence against Indigenous women at an all-time high, learn how you can help.

You can watch our full episode “The Secrets of Spirit Lake” and find out what happened to Carla Yellow Bird now.

You can watch on Peacock TV as well.

The podcast version of the full episode is also available.