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

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  2,346 ratings  ·  431 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 379 pages
Published February 25th 2020 by Random House
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  2,346 ratings  ·  431 reviews

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Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, 2020
I’m torn on how I feel about this book. For what I was expecting, it’s kind of a let down, but for what it ended up being, it’s pretty well-done. Based off of the title, I knew at least part of the story would be framed around “one woman’s search for justice in Indian country”, but for some reason I assumed that woman was the author. It’s not; the author, Sierra Crane Murdoch, is a reporter who frequently followed stories on a reservation in North Dakota. The actual subject is a woman named Liss ...more
3.75 stars - A murder mystery with a very different kind of protagonist, “Yellow Bird” is an analytical study of a man who disappeared from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota in 2012. While journalist Sierra Crane Murdoch delves into a purposeful narrative, she takes time to be contemplative, weighing heavy issues such as the right of a white woman to write a chronicle about life on the reservation; a narrative deeply investigative of tribal politics and Indian culture. Murdoch ...more
Jen Juenke
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I was really looking forward to reading this book.
Having grown up in Indian Country, I was eager to read about the murder, the oil, and the reservation.
I got half way through this book before deciding that I could NOT keep propping my eyelids open to read this.

First, Lissa is the main focus of this book....NOT the murder victim KC.
Second, I am got so tired and BORED of hearing of Lissa's horrible job as a mother and as a drug addict. IT dominated everything.
I completely understand if this was a
Oct 30, 2019 rated it liked it
In Yellow Bird, Sierra Crane Murdoch, details how Lissa Yellow Bird, an Indigenous woman with a troubled past and hard life, has become quite adept when it comes to solving missing person cases.

In Yellow Bird, a man employed by questionable employers exploiting natural resources on Native American property disappears and is said to have left the area voluntarily, while Lissa Yellow Bird and others believe his disappearance has not been voluntary.

The background of Lissa Yellow Bird involves sub
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
The book is interesting enough; but excruciatingly slow. It focuses heavily on Lissa, the woman who obsessively searches for a missing person. It is almost like a biography of sorts which annoyed me because I thought the book was going to be mostly about the oil boom on the reservation and the missing person. Her kids, their different fathers, her mother, her grandmother, her siblings, every town she visited, on and on and on. At least half of the book focuses on every detail of her past and pre ...more
Maureen Caupp
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A well researched story that centers around Lissa Yellow Bird, her determination to find KC and other who have gone missing, and around parts of her life and history. The book also does a great job of showing how the oil boom changed the reservation, both physically on the landscape but also how it widen the gaps between the haves and have-nots, and brought it more drugs and violence. It also showed how the issues and life on the reservation today are shaped by its long history of trauma and pol ...more
Aug 08, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Watch me talk about this book in my August wrap up:
Amy Ingalls
Mar 17, 2020 rated it liked it
I won this book in a giveaway.

This is a hard book to rate. I was going to give it 2 stars, because I found it really slow at times, but I can appreciate the amount of research that went into it and bumped it up to 3.

I expected a true crime book and at times found myself getting frustrated. I felt like the victim, KC, was often put on the backburner. Although the search for his body and his killer was the lens through which this book was written, it often felt more like Lissa's story.

The long-te
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Indian Country and the oil fields of North Dakota are two places quality journalism has feared to tread. When they are the same place, even moreso. Yellow Bird is a look at both the historical traumas of the Fort Berthold Reservation and the current and ongoing devastation caused by the oil boom told through the life of Lissa Yellow Bird Chase. Like Lissa, I'm also a member of the MHA Nation at Fort Berthold and while Lissa's life is her own, the traumas are widespread and shared among the Nativ ...more
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What white colonisers have done to Indigenous peoples is a fucking atrocity.

This is not a sensational true crime book, this is one of the new (ish, we've all heard of In Cold Blood) types of literary true crime that looks at societal reasons for why these crimes occurred. So there's a lot of Native history, and personal history of Lissa Yellow Bird, woven into this, but I think it's masterfully done.

And I appreciate that she writes in her author's note about the problems surrounding a white pers
Jul 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020

The book YELLOW BIRD: OIL MURDER AND A WOMAN's SEARCH FOR JUSTICE IN INDIAN COUNTRY is about Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase who is a self-proclaimed body hunter. She is the founder of the Sahnish Scouts of North Dakota, which is a non-profit citizen-led organization dedicated to finding missing people for their families.

Like many others, I thought the book was about a murder, instead, it is about Yellow Bird-Chase and her dedication to body recovery. The book touches on several related homicides and
Beth Bendtsen
Feb 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for my honest review of this book!

In Yellow Bird, Murdoch recounts the story of Lissa Yellow Bird--a forty-something Native woman, mother and recovering drug addict--who gets pulled into the search for a white oil worker, KC, who goes missing from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota in 2012. Lissa's drive to find KC, a man she doesn't know outpaces that of investigators, as well as KC's own friends and family. Her r
Kate Webb
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Five stars for the story, trauma, native american life and history, perseverance and determination. The narrative was sometimes confusing as to who was speaking but still a great story.
Eduardo Santiago
Dec 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hard to figure out, categorize, or rate. Ostensibly a memoir of the titular Lissa Yellow Bird — a truly memorable, fascinating, haunting and haunted character — the book is both much more and somewhat less: the Oil Curse; Native American sovereignty and resiliency despite the centuries-long abuses of the U.S. government; corruption; obsession; the power of relationships; and of course murder most foul. Murdoch treated these all as co-themes, not side ones, lending them equal weight, each one cap ...more
Rick Wilson
Feb 25, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: this-is-america
This book doesn’t know what it wants to be. It’s beautifully written and absolutely heartbreaking at times. But it feels like two or three different books kind of mushed together.

There is a absolutely heartbreaking ethnography about the Native American reservation in North Dakota. A searing examination of drug use and how predatory the oil companies in the region are.

There is this sort of mediocre who-done-it, a sort of loosely connected murder that I think the author wants to be the unifying t
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I choose to “read” this book as an audiobook and I really enjoyed it. I liked learning about the reservation and the background of it all. Lissa was very dedicated to finding KC and I was happy she didn’t give up and fought to bring those responsible for justice. I wish there was more background to who KC was and his life before moving to the Rez for the oil boom but other than that I thought the book was well written and informative
Mahoghani 23
Im not sure exactly how I should rate this book. Its a true story & justice was finally served but at the same time it's one of the most boring books I've endured. The story commenced on an Indian reservation. The Indiana's land was rich with oil & soon this reservation in North Dakota was seeing more money than they've ever had. With this influx of money conflict began along with deception, crime, drugs, medical issues, and murder. Corruption from the outside of your race, you kind of expect bu ...more
I’m not sure what I think about this book. The book felt like a mingling of many different stories combined and sometimes it felt jarring to be thrust from one into the other. Among the major stories highlighted: the life and obsession of amateur crime solver Lissa Yellow Bird, the relationship between the author and Yellow Bird, the extended Yellow Bird family, the oil boom, the history and politics on the Fort Berthold reservation in North Dakota, the gray areas of jurisdiction on reservations ...more
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
While ostensibly a true crime story about the murder of an oil worker, Yellow Bird is much broader than that. The story centers on Lissa Yellow Bird, who has lived about 50 lives during her time on earth, and is someone that doesn't give up once she's focused on something. I love her. She starts her own investigation into a local missing oil worker, to the chagrin of pretty much everyone, including her own family who hasn't totally forgiven her for her rough past. A lot of the book focuses on Li ...more
Mary Ellen Anaka
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
I have to be honest. I had a very hard time getting into this book. I felt that it was too bogged down with repetative information. This book was slow and tedious. I found myself skipping some of the book, just to get on with it.
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
I listened to the author read this book and didn't love her voice, but it's a journalistic format, so no special voices or other emotional reading skills were needed; she was fine. My biggest complaint was the length, maybe lack of tight editing; I understand the writer did a ton of research and had way more material than fit so had to do tough cutting, but there were still long passages I wasn't sure why were included. This book is one of those that takes a historic event (the oil boom) and bui ...more
Galen Johnson
Murdoch is an excellent researcher and thoughtful writer. Like other reviewers, I think the book could have benefited from better framing or organization. This book is much more about Lissa Yellow Bird than it is about mystery of Clarke or how justice plays out (or doesn't) in Indian Country. And Lissa is a great character. But it was often unclear if the book was a biography, an examination of the disappearance of Clarke and how it was influenced by the hodge podge of laws and law enforcement e ...more
Nov 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Superlative. A stunning work of journalism.
Jenny GB
Mar 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaway
I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you!

Yellow Bird tells the story of Lissa Yellow Bird's search for a missing young man on the reservation. It also intimately tells Lissa's own history and why she's drawn now to search for missing people. Finally, the book explains the bigger story of the reservation's oil boom and bust and the effect it has on the community as a whole. The author weaves all these stories together to illuminate one remarkable woman and her pa
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. At once a gritty true crime novel and an exploration of the Fort Berthold Reservation before and during the oil boom. Lissa, the main character, is one of the most complicated, compelling characters I've read about. ...more
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020
Note: I read/listened to this book in audio format, so certain parts of the review deal specifically with that.

I want to start out by saying that this book is excellent. While it deals with crime, it is not just a true crime story. It talks about history, about the personal experiences of the main participants in the story, but it is not just a work of history or biography. It is all of these and more.

The narrative follows the life and investigative pursuits of one Arikra Native American woman,
Oct 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
True crime about an oil boom on a North Dakota Indian reservation and the violence that came with it. Important to note that the author is a white journalist, which made me a bit cautious, but the focus of the book is Lissa Yellow Bird, the Native woman who tirelessly investigated the murder of a white oil man, combing the reservation for his body long after authorities had lost interest. Lissa is a fascinating person--a book about her life would be interesting enough even without the murder inv ...more
Darian Hailes
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Yellow Bird does a fantastic job of setting the scene of the indigenous experience that the MHA Nation has lived with for many years in North Dakota. The author helps those of us that are not from areas where tribal strife is prevalent understand the disconnect between a person going missing on a reservation and someone going missing off reservation. The process is not easy and because of historical dealings, many Indigenous people do not have the means or time to set up a search party. Some fee ...more
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
Yellow Bird, written by a white, investigative journalist, tells the true story of one native woman’s obsessive search for a white oil worker who went missing on the Fort Berthold Indian reservation in North Dakota. It is packed full of Lissa Yellow Bird’s life, the struggles she’s faced, and her hunt to find Kristopher “KC” Clarke.

It showcases a multitude of times that the US government valued wealth over indigenous lives, portraying the hardships tribal members were forced to face throughout
Bimal Patel
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I have received a copy of this book from the publisher in return of my unbiased opinion and review.

Books on investigative journalism are always fun and gripping to read. This book is no different. The story of this book is multifaceted in that it involves one woman's relentless efforts to find out about a missing person on Indian reservation while at the same time the author takes us through the oil boom on reservations and how it impacted the lives of people living there and the way
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Sierra Crane Murdoch is a journalist based in the American West. She has written for The Atlantic, The New Yorker online, Virginia Quarterly Review, Orion, and High Country News. She has held fellowships from Middlebury College and from the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley.

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