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Dateline NBC special will examine investigation of murdered Spirit Lake woman

'The Secrets of Spirit Lake' will follow Lissa Yellow Bird, whose amateur sleuthing exposed cracks in law enforcement's investigation into her niece's disappearance in 2016, and Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Lissa Yellow Bird.jpg
Lissa Yellow Bird // Photo contributed
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A new episode of Dateline airing this week, "The Secrets of Spirit Lake," will report on the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

In the one-hour special, NBC News' Andrea Canning will sit down with Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native woman to serve in a presidential cabinet, and will speak with Lissa Yellow Bird, an amateur sleuth and advocate who exposed cracks in the law enforcement investigation into the disappearance of her niece, Carla Yellow Bird, on the Spirit Lake reservation in 2016.

Two men were convicted for Carla Yellow Bird's murder in 2019 , according to archival Herald coverage. According to the indictment, the men intended to rob her. When one attempted to hit her in the head with a firearm, the gun discharged, shooting her in the head. They hid her body in the woods and attempted to cover up the murder, according to court documents.

According to a release from Dateline NBC, the episode will explore how jurisdictional rules between tribal and non-tribal law enforcement can leave families alone in their search for answers, and the growing movement demanding change.

The episode will air at 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 27.


In the special, Haaland 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, and it's very, very deep," she said in a statement provided by Dateline. "I'm grateful that we're seeing some action on it right now."

The special is part of NBC News' week-long series "The Vanished," which features in-depth coverage on missing and murdered Indigenous women. Other specials in the series will focus on the difficulties one Indigenous family is facing as they search for their 3-year-old child, interviews with grassroots organizers who are using their voice and social media platforms to push for change, interviews with a Michigan boarding school accused of abusing Native children for decades, and an exploration on how shortfalls in data collection and resources can hamper work to address the problems facing Indigenous women.

Carla Jovon Yellowbird
Carla Jovon Yellowbird

Hannah Shirley covers crime, courts and criminal justice for the Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2018 graduate of the University of Idaho and has lived and worked in Grand Forks since 2019. Prior to moving to North Dakota, she worked as a reporter for the Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass., a receptionist for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in Moscow, Idaho, and a barista in a New York City coffee shop. She can be reached by phone at (701) 780-1267 or by email at
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