A North Dakota Indigenous Woman Disappears, and Months Later Her Body is Found by Volunteers at the Bottom of Lake Sakakawea Strapped into the Passenger's Seat of the Truck She Was Seen Driving
Olivia Lone Bear was a mother and member of the Three Affiliated Tribes. She loved spending time with her kids, playing poker, golfing, and going to concerts. A young and vibrant community member, she was last seen on October 24, 2017, after leaving a local bar in a pickup truck she had borrowed from a friend.
Olivia's father, Harley, reported Olivia missing after he had not heard from her for two days. An official investigation commenced, and while law enforcement and tribal council pursued leads, her family and friends took to social media for answers. On October 26, her brother posted on Facebook that they were unable to locate Olivia and that she had not checked in. This was out of character for her. In a Dateline episode on Olivia’s case, her brother Matthew explains that he believes Olivia had returned home after she left the bar because her cell phone, money, and her wallet have all been found inside of her home after her disappearance. The clothes she was last seen wearing were also there.
Finally, after months of searching, the Fort Berthold Reservation—which contains nearly a million acres—her body was found. On July 27, 2018, a group of volunteers using a fishing boat discovered the truck she was driving submerged in Lake Sakakawea. On July 31, a law enforcement diver confirmed what civilians had found: a submerged truck in more than 20 feet of water, nearly 400 feet from shore and less than a mile and a half from Olivia's home.
Olivia's body was found buckled into the passenger's side of the vehicle, but no obvious injuries were found on her body, and an autopsy failed to determine the cause of death. In fact, medical personnel noted that they could not determine a definitive traumatic, natural, or toxicological cause for her death.
Where is the case today?
Frustrated by confusion and the lack of response from law enforcement, Olivia's family is hopeful that answers will be uncovered as to what exactly happened that night—who was she with and what exactly caused her death?
Indigenous women face murder rates that are more than 10 times the national average, and Olivia's case is a representation of a breakdown in tribal, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and FBI communications; taking nearly a year to find her body. In April, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced that a new unit will be formed to assist in these investigations.
Investigators have not ruled out foul play, and the FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information regarding the death of Olivia Lone Bear. Anyone with information in Olivia's case is urged to call 1-800-CALLFBI (1-800-225-5324) or file tips with the FBI.