Olivia Lone Bear was a 32-year-old member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (or The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation). She lived with her father, Harley “Texx” Lone Bear, on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in New Town, North Dakota.
Olivia’s main focus in life was caring for her five children. Haley, Jaycee, Laylah, Dane, and Brody were all under the age of 14. She had given birth to a son named Caleb in 2005, but he passed away at 8-months-old.
She had been unemployed at the time, but she had had a number of jobs over the years. She had worked as a live games dealer at the Four Bears Casino & Lodge and really liked her job.
Olivia loved spending time with her kids and was a good mother. She liked going to concerts, playing poker, and golf, and she was friendly and willing to try new things.
Olivia went to the Sportsman’s Bar with her friends on October 24, 2017, and then left. A friend often let her borrow a teal 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 pickup truck, which is where she was last seen. It’s not clear if she was by herself.
After she drove off, no one knows what happened. Matthew Lone Bear, her brother, thinks she did go home because her phone, wallet, money, and the clothes she was wearing at the bar were all at the house.
Texx told the Three Affiliated Tribes Police Department on October 27 that his daughter Olivia was missing because he had no idea where she was.
The family has said that the tribal police are not doing enough to find the missing mother. A detective Texx says told him, “This isn’t the only thing going on with the Fort Berthold Reservation.”
Bruce “Tuffy” First, Olivia’s uncle, who used to work for the Fort Peck tribal police and is now retired, says that the authorities told him that Olivia had run away or was just out partying.
One of the main points of disagreement was that the tribal police didn’t want to search Lake Sakakawea. As the lake began to slowly freeze, Olivia’s family begged them to do so, but the authorities said they couldn’t because there weren’t enough boats. The tribal police, on the other hand, had turned down offers of help from other groups, like the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
People were angry when Matthew posted a picture on Facebook of several boats at the police department’s supply yard that were not being used.
The police were at the lake two weeks after Olivia went missing. The family thought the search was rushed because they didn’t find anything.
The tribal police didn’t do much to help Olivia’s family, so they took matters into their own hands. Volunteers, family, and friends walked and drove all-terrain vehicles through the one-million-acre reservation. They searched in several North Dakota towns with drones and mobile camps.
Olivia’s family used a building owned by the tribal government as their investigation’s main office. They set up a tip line that was staffed every day for months. People as far away as California and Arizona said they had seen them.
Lissa Yellowbird-Chase started the Sahnish Scouts of North Dakota to help find missing people in Indian Country. She was one of the first people who helped look for Olivia. At a press conference, she said,
“Don’t wait for law enforcement, because people have this false sense of security that when you file a missing person report, that all of the officers and detectives jump in their cars and run all over the place looking for this person. And that’s simply not true.”
Lisa decided to act on a feeling she had been having for months at the end of July 2018. Lissa went to Lake Sakakawea with her 14-foot boat and a set of fishing sonar, along with a couple of volunteers from her group.
They kept moving farther away from the shore as they looked for a while until they saw something rectangular in the water. They sent some sonar pictures to the tribal police.
Lake Sakakawea was searched by the government on July 31.
The round thing that Lissa and her team found was Olivia’s truck, which she was driving when she went missing. It was 400 feet from the shore of Sanish Bay and 21 feet below the surface. It was less than a mile from Olivia’s house.
The windows were broken, and silt was all over the car. Police went inside and found a dead body in the passenger seat. The person’s seat belt was still around their waist.
The truck was 100 feet outside of the search area, so the police missed it when they searched the lake before.
Olivia’s family knew who she was because of her tattoos. Authorities said in a statement that “medical staff noted that they did not find definitive traumatic, natural, or toxicological causes for her death.” The official word on Olivia’s death was “undetermined.”
A witness who was questioned by police said that Olivia’s last text message to him said she had been to a bonfire and was now “mudding,” which means driving off-road, usually near rivers or swamps. The police talked to a lot of people, but none of them could remember who Olivia went to a bonfire or “mudding” with.
It is still unclear how Olivia ended up in Lake Sakakawea. Authorities have not ruled out the possibility of mur*der or manslaughter. The FBI is involved in the ongoing investigation and has issued multiple subpoenas, search warrants (including for Facebook and OnStar data), and interviewed dozens of witnesses.
A lot of Indigenous women have gone missing or been killed in the Bakken oil fields, which includes New Town, North Dakota. The website Searching for Olivia sheds some light on this problem.
A huge number of indigenous women are missing or killed in the Bakken oil fields (#MMIW).
People often go missing in this area, called the Bakken, but their cases are not reported. With the growth of the oil and gas industry in the area, the number of cases of trafficking and other dangerous situations for Indigenous women has gone through the roof. This problem has been around for a while.
A lot of the time, there are no reports or response rates for Indigenous people who go missing in the area.
Matthew spoke to Dateline about his sister’s mysterious death,
“We still feel anger and frustration at the events that transpired. But our relative is home and we can lay her to rest in our way. That is just as important to us. There is still an ongoing investigation. We hope we get more answers soon.
We love you Olivia.”