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.
In YELLOW BIRD, Crane Murdoch traces Lissa's steps as she obsessively hunts for clues to Clarke's disappearance. Lissa 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, as well as an intimate profile of a complex woman. Lissa is smart, funny, eloquent, thoughtful, and—when it serves her cause—manipulative. Drawing on eight years of immersive investigation, Crane Murdoch has produced a deep examination of the legacy of systematic violence inflicted on a tribal nation and its individual members, a tale of extraordinary healing, and an exceptional character study of a self-made detective whose passion and larger-than-life personality we will not soon forget.
Sierra Crane Murdoch is a journalist based in the American West and has written for The Atlantic, The New Yorker online, Virginia Quarterly Review, Orion, and High Country News. She is a MacDowell Fellow.
The Chuckanut Radio Hour, a recipient of Bellingham's prestigious Mayor's Arts Award, is a radio variety show that began in January 2007. Each Chuckanut Radio Hour includes guest authors, musicians, performance poet Kevin Murphy, and episodes of "As the Ham Turns" serial radio comedy performed by the Chuckanut Radio Players Les Campbell, Tonja Meyers, Lisa Colburn, Dee Robinson, and Robert Muzzy. Not to mention groaner jokes by hosts Paul Hanson, Kelly Evert, and announcer Rich Donnelly. The Chuckanut Radio Hour's first guest was Erik Larson and has since included, Tom Robbins, Maria Semple, Christopher McDougall, Erica Bauermeister, and Garrison Keillor, among many others. Tickets for the Chuckanut Radio Hour are $5 and are available at Village Books and Eventbrite. Receive a free ticket with purchase of Yellow Bird! The Radio Hour airs every Sunday at 10am on SPARK RADIO, KMRE 102.3FM. Co-sponsored by the Whatcom Community College Community and Continuing Education, 12th Street Shoes, and Westside Pizza.