Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

'No crime scene': The search for Olivia Lone Bear

Thirteen minutes into Taylor Sheridan’s feature film Wind River, the body of a young Native woman from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming is discovered by the protagonist, a white hunter who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That spurs a multi-agency investigation, and within days, officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local and tribal law enforcement face off in a bloody, Tarantino-style shootout with the bad guys: oil workers living in the company-owned temporary housing known as man camps.

According to Sheridan, the film is “inspired by true events” and the “thousands of actual stories just like it,” involving the sexual assault of Native American women on reservations across the country. Yet Native families seldom get such dramatic closure or swift justice. Rarely do local or federal law enforcement officers respond so quickly or take bullets in defense of tribal members. Had Sheridan really wanted to be true to life, he would have ended his film with the family never finding the body of their loved one, much less tracking down the culprit. On Oct. 24, 2017, a real Native American woman, a 33-year-old mother of four named Olivia Lone Bear, disappeared from the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. Her family has been frantically searching for her ever since. Like so many others, though, they’ve run up against uncooperative law enforcement agencies, which are themselves stymied by jurisdictional complications and a lack of resources. “(Tribal police) told us they couldn’t investigate Olivia’s disappearance because there was no crime scene,” her cousin, Matthew Lone Bear, told me in February, shortly after the Bureau of Indian Affairs took over the investigation from the Three Affiliated Tribes police.


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