Bringing up the bodies
One woman's search for remains in the Bakken oil fields
Story by Tristan Ahtone for Al Jazeera America
Lissa Yellowbird-Chase shook a shovel-full of damp clay onto the banks of the Little Missouri River, all the while watching for signs: metal pins and plates, cigarette butts, jewelry, fabric, or bone.
“You just kind of shake it out, you don’t just pile it,” she said as the soil slipped off her shovel. “You end up with a finger or something in there then you’re destroying evidence.”
Somewhere underneath the mud and dirt, Lissa Yellowbird-Chase suspected that the final remains of Kristopher “KC” Clarke would be found. Killed in 2012 in the Bakken oil fields on the Fort Berthold Reservation in a murder-for-hire scheme, Clarke’s accused assassins await trial for the crime, but his body has never been found. Yellowbird-Chase and a handful of other volunteers, known as the Sahnish Scouts, have been searching for him ever since.
They’ve also been searching for others that have disappeared from the area:Joseph Lee, whose empty car, boots and socks were found in 2013; 74-year-oldRon Johnson, who vanished with his gold Cadillac Fleetwood after leaving the Four Bears Casino and Lodge in 2011; and Reachelle Smith, Yellowbird-Chase’s four-year-old neighbor that disappeared in 2006 from the town of Minot, North Dakota.
As Yellowbird-Chase dug her shovel into the wet ground, the tall grass bent and danced in the wind.
“Look at this,” said Yellowbird-Chase as she excitedly pushed down on a waterlogged piece of soil with the toe of her hiking boot. “It’s a distinctly different kind of dirt.”
The ground, she explained, was hard like concrete all around save for the one, damp area the Sahnish Scouts were digging up.
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