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Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman's Search for Justice in Indian Country (Chapter 18: What They Say We Loved)

THE BOOM WAS OVER. IN the early months of 2016, the price of oil still did not rise above fifty dollars a barrel, and although state officials were hopeful it would, anyone I spoke to inside the industry told me the pace of development would never be what it had been before. The royalties landowners earned would grow and shrink as the price of oil rose and fell, but drillers no longer needed as many workers. Most wells were drilled, and companies had become efficient in their hiring. Booms, I learned, are inherently wasteful. They come to an end, in part, because companies catch up to them—learn to do more with less.

That winter, I noticed that a man camp on the outskirts of Parshall, the town where I often stayed, had vanished. Before, there had been hundreds of trailers. Now there were fewer than a dozen, and they appeared abandoned.

“Where did they go?” I asked Ed Hall, the elderly man I had met five years earlier on my first visit to the reservation.

“Home,” he replied.

 

Some nights later, Ed called me. Had I seen the evening news? A junkyard to the north of the reservation was collecting trailers and feeding them into a crusher. I went to my computer and found the video. The trailers looked brittle. They broke like eggs.

One spring, Ed invited me to see the old Congregational church that had been carried up from the bottomlands. It had a new fence, for which he had raised the money. On a Friday evening before sunset, I walked to Ed’s house and rode with him to the church.

He was dressed in jeans and a blue nylon jacket. Merle Haggard was playing on the radio. We passed Lucky Mound Creek, where Ed’s mother taught school before the flood, and wheat fields, and a few trees. I asked Ed to tell me the story of the bones, again—of how he dug them up from the bottomlands and reburied them in the new churchyard. “I had to do it to eat,” he said. “There weren’t too many jobs those days.” He did not seem to want to talk about it, and changed the subject.

“The pheasants are getting thick. We’ll have a good crop this year,” he said, and indeed, the birds were rising from the sloughs, skidding along the sides of the road. When we came to the church, I followed Ed through a gate and up stone steps that had pulled away from the foundation. It was quiet inside, except for the wind. A heart had been painted on some plywood boarding a window, and by the door was an alcove where a rope once hung to ring a bell.

“Did you ever ring it?” I asked Ed.

“Oh, lots of times,” he said, and reached with his hand to pull the invisible rope.

Outside, the sky was thick with clouds. A meadowlark sang. Wind combed the grass. We wandered the graves, of which ground squirrels had made a mess, causing Ed to curse. The cemetery was scattered with colorful objects—crosses and cigarette butts, ball caps and undrunk Coca-Colas. There were pocketknives, their blades snapped. A snow globe. Flowers tipped and blown from the graves, gathered against the masonry of the church.

I did not touch the objects. I thought of what Lissa told me about the way spirits moved from hand to object, object to lips, skin to skin, skin to bone.

 

A car passed, fast and carelessly. Ed was waiting for me at the gate. He let me through, latched it, and for a moment, we studied the new fence. It looked nice, I thought, and I told him so. Then we returned to the car.

That was when I asked about Lissa, whom Ed had raised until her mother took her back.

“Who, Lisa? Lisa Yellow Bird? Oh, she was a real cuddly little girl. She always wanted to be held, and so I held her.” Ed smiled, a look of love. That was all he said.

 

IN JANUARY 2017, the new president signed an executive order instructing the Army Corps of Engineers to grant the easements to build the Dakota Access Pipeline across the Missouri River. Two weeks later, the Corps did so, and the Standing Rock encampment was disbanded. Lissa resumed her search for KC. More than a year had passed since she last had spoken to Jill. “Every family handles their missing a different kind of way,” she told me. “Some families, it seems, have totally accepted the fact that they’re not going to find their loved one. It’s like they almost find more peace in knowing that we’re out there, looking. Even though they don’t come anymore. Not that they don’t care. It’s that they had to move on. It was taking away from their living. Where, for me, I don’t feel it’s taking away anything. It’s a part of my life. I’m okay with what I do, and I think my friends and family have pretty much accepted this. She’s always been that way.”

By now her searching had taken on an even more personal meaning. In August 2016, her own relative had disappeared—Chucky’s daughter, Carla Yellow Bird. Carla had been gone for two weeks when Lissa heard her family mention it. Carla was two decades younger than Lissa, who knew her as “a real giddy girl, one of those weirdo kids. She had a lot of confidence, and she pulled it off.” Carla, Lissa said, was “the kind of girl who would come in and wouldn’t even introduce herself. She’d find a phone, jam it in, play music when you’re trying to talk. Then she’d go, ‘Oh, hi, I’m Carla.’ She’d be in the kitchen dancing to this song, turning it up even more. Then she’d whiz out the door, and you’d be like, ‘Thank God.’ ”

 

She was addicted to meth. At first, her family assumed she was out on a binge, but when three weeks passed and she still had not appeared, they began to worry. After four weeks, Lissa called every relative she could think of who might know where her cousin had gone. Around the time Carla disappeared, Lissa learned, she had been riding to the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation, east of Fort Berthold, with a Sisseton-Wahpeton man. Lissa posted the man’s name on Facebook. Within a day, he called her and asked her to take it down. At first, he denied knowing where Carla had gone, but Lissa pressed him, and after they had spoken for hours, the man confessed: Carla had been selling meth on Spirit Lake when another dealer they were riding with shot and robbed her. The next day, the man led the FBI and Lissa to Carla’s body, and Lissa identified her.

In 2017 and 2018, Lissa worked on dozens of cases of Native American men and women who had gone missing. There was Alex Vasquez, a twenty-four-year-old Lakota man who disappeared from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in October 2015 and whose rumored murder was still unsolved. And there was Jason Azure, from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana, who, in April 2018, leapt into the Missouri River to save a boy from drowning and drowned himself. Lissa found Jason with a sonar system she had attached to her boat, and with his family’s blessing, tried to fish him out with a giant treble hook, but his body would not catch. Authorities offered little to no help, and when winter came, Jason remained in the river.

Lissa coordinated searches with law enforcement when officials were willing, but in most cases, families came to her because officials had so far done nothing. Among these cases was that of Damon Boyd, an Ojibwe man from Leech Lake, Minnesota, twenty-nine when he disappeared. Damon had been homeless when he last was spotted in Grand Forks in April 2014, which made him difficult to track, but Lissa suspected his medical records might contain some clues. This presented another obstacle: Only a legal guardian could see the records, but Damon’s mother and father were dead. His grandfather, Louis, was sickly. Still, Lissa found a loophole: The Leech Lake Tribe, with Louis’s approval, exercised its sovereignty to appoint Lissa as Damon’s guardian. “Don’t wait for law enforcement,” Lissa took to advising families. When a person went missing, she warned, authorities did three things: “Wait for the person to walk through the door, wait for the person to end up in jail, or wait for their body to surface.”

 

While Lissa searched for Damon, another case came to her attention. On August 19, 2017, a twenty-two-year-old woman by the name of Savanna Greywind disappeared from her apartment in Fargo. A spokesman for the family contacted Lissa, who visited them at the apartment the next day. No one had seen Savanna, who was eight months pregnant, leave the building; she had left her phone behind. As Lissa visited with the family, police officers searched an apartment upstairs, where a white woman and her white boyfriend lived, but found nothing. Five days later, at the family’s insistence, officers searched upstairs again and discovered Savanna’s baby, alive. Meanwhile, Lissa helped organize search parties. Eight days after Savanna disappeared, volunteer searchers found her body wrapped in plastic, caught in a tree near the bank of the Red River.

It was the first case of a murdered Native American woman to make the national news, due in part to the horror of the story: The white woman who lived upstairs had cut the baby out of Savanna. People magazine published an article. Gloria Allred, the celebrity lawyer representing women who had been sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby, provided legal counsel to the Greywind family. Lissa was invited to speak at conferences all over the country about the high rates at which Indigenous women, men, and children went missing and how often their cases went unsolved. In the fall of 2017, she quit her welding job after her boss said he could no longer allow her absences. By then, another woman had disappeared—Olivia Lone Bear, a thirty-two-year-old member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation.

 

Olivia had last been seen in late October, driving west from a bar in New Town to her home on Sanish Bay. Some suspected she made it home, since her cell phone, wallet, and the jacket she had been wearing were found inside her house. But the truck she drove—a Chevy Silverado borrowed from a friend, an oil worker—was missing. For months after Olivia disappeared, her family and teams of volunteers hunted for the truck. Lissa helped in the beginning but, after an argument with some members of Olivia’s family, moved on to other cases.

Still, the disappearance tormented Lissa. “You know the feeling I had with KC?” she told me one night on the phone. “It’s the same thing with Olivia.” The woman’s family had been searching for her all over the country, but Lissa suspected Olivia’s body was not far from her house, submerged in Sanish Bay. In July 2018, after she spoke at a forum on Fort Berthold, Lissa launched her boat from a marina near the bay and, with a friend and young relative, motored out into the lake. They had been drifting hardly ten minutes when her relative spotted an odd shape with Lissa’s sonar. Lissa took a photograph of the sonar image and texted it to Darrik Trudell, a local deputy, tribal chairman Mark Fox, and me.

I called Lissa. “What is it?” I said. She sighed at my cluelessness.

Four nights later, she called me from Crow Flies High Butte, overlooking the lake, as authorities towed a pickup truck from the water. Olivia’s body was inside.

“What are you going to do now?” I asked.

“Go see my mom and grandma,” Lissa said. “I think they miss me.” The wind crackled from her phone. After we hung up, she forwarded me the text messages she exchanged with Trudell. How had she known where to find the truck, he had wondered. It was something “spiritual,” she wrote. “You probably don’t understand.”

“10-4,” Trudell replied. Understood.

 

 

FOR THE FIRST time since Lissa’s parole, her kids moved out of the apartment. Micah went to Minneapolis, where he enrolled in college, while Obie and Caitlin got pregnant, and they rented an apartment of their own. When Lissa was not working on a case, she visited Shauna and spent more time with her grandchildren, who often came to stay with her in Fargo. After Obie’s son was born, OJ, who wanted to meet his grandson, stayed two weeks in Lissa’s spare bedroom. She mentioned the visit to me only after OJ had left. I told her I thought it was the craziest thing she had done in the years that I had known her, but she promised their time together had been cordial and platonic. She had put OJ to work attaching flyers for a missing woman to lampposts around Fargo.

One spring, I spent a month in Fargo. Lissa had resurrected her interest in plants, and when I arrived, there were seed trays scattered around the apartment, stalks sprouting in ceramic pots. We spent most of the month on her patio. A family of rabbits lived by a fence separating the apartment building from another, and each morning as we drank our coffee, we watched them graze in the yard.

Tex Hall had appeared in the news again. According to an article in The Bismarck Tribune, he had partnered with a marijuana grower to bring the industry to reservations. He believed tribes, with all the land they owned, had an opportunity to corner the market. Lissa was not opposed to medical marijuana, but she was not keen on any attempt by Tex to resurrect himself. She was bothered that he had never been held legally accountable for the corruption alleged in the investigative report. Soon, Sarah Creveling would plead guilty to “conspiracy to commit mail fraud.” According to her indictment, she, with James’s help, had “diverted or embezzled approximately $1,720,835.11” from investors. Meanwhile, George Dennis would be charged for concealing the fact that he had aided in the “disposal of the victim’s body,” and his charges would be dismissed after he completed eighteen months of supervised probation. Neither he nor Sarah would serve prison time. And what had Tex suffered? Lissa wondered. In one sense, she resented him more than she did James: James killed two people, but Tex, in welcoming the oil industry, had threatened the lives of thousands. “I’m not trying to minimize James’s deeds,” she told me, “but when you talk about Tex’s crime, you’re talking about what he did to his own people. When you look at our culture, one of the things we pride ourselves in is our warriors, the ones who delivered our people out of hard times when all the odds were against them. Tex had a choice, and what did he bring? Pain. Conflict. Hatred amongst his own people.”

 

Lissa believed Tex had traded the suffering of his community for the enrichment of a few. His crime was greed, but also denial, and in this way, she said, he was not all that unlike Sarah Creveling: “Even she was blinded by greed. She didn’t want to believe her husband was a murderer. She wanted to believe this false story, this storybook. But that’s not storybook—not when somebody’s missing, presumably murdered. She was not even willing to consider the fact that her husband was involved. Let’s not be stupid. She had to question some of this. She didn’t want to believe it. If she had been forced to believe something like that, which she eventually was, then her little fairy tale would go away.”

I understood that it was easy to blame the story on James. Was it really just greed, many people asked me, that had driven him to hire the murders? Was he really that cold-blooded? There was something unknowable about him. I, too, had searched for other explanations. I had wondered if the trial might reveal some trauma he suffered in his past, some other reason why he hurt people, but I had learned nothing more about him, and with no story, I had been left thinking that James was fundamentally lacking in empathy—that he was a sociopath. But what made him a sociopath, I still wondered. He had placed material profit and human life on the same scale. Was that a definition of a sociopath? If the oil industry were a man, would we call him a sociopath? If our governments, which systematically took Indigenous lives, were men, would we call them sociopaths? Was a sociopath just the man himself or also the society that enabled him?

What Lissa had seen in this story, which many had not, was the complicity of a whole community that had willfully believed in the promise of the boom, in the saving power of wealth. The violence was all around them. They just chose not to look. Everyone was both victim and perpetrator, Lissa thought, and their crime was their unwillingness to see this. The injustice of the boom was not the money they lost, nor the opportunity they missed, but the forgetting that made space for the story they had told themselves: “They say, ‘We’re tired of being poor.’ This is how they justify losing what they say we loved.”

 

 

A FEW TIMES that spring I visited Ed Hall at his house in Parshall, in his office on a lower floor where he kept portraits of his late wife and art he had collected in the years he lived in Albuquerque. Ed had three desks stacked with reports and newspaper clippings. He was at work on a new report. It would take him a year, he told me, and it would be his last. The topic was “intergenerational trauma,” a term he had heard before but that he had never given much thought.

In the 1980s, a Lakota sociologist, Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, had developed a theory of “historical unresolved grief.” She believed that the depression, suicide, addiction, and child and domestic abuse in Native American communities could be traced to periods of trauma: first to genocide, to disease and alcoholism upon contact with white immigrants; then to subjugation by the government, when Indigenous people were confined to reservations and forced into dependency on their oppressors; then boarding schools, which broke apart families, and where children were beaten for speaking their language and in many cases raped; and, at last, relocation, when people left their reservations for cities, where they were treated as second-class citizens, and some abandoned their culture altogether.

In the years since Brave Heart published her theory, many sociologists, as well as geneticists, had supported similar hypotheses through other methods. In 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente published an Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, which found that people who experienced more stress as children were at higher risk of developing depression, diabetes, and addiction, and of experiencing intimate partner violence and suicide. Scientists were beginning to understand why this might be. In the burgeoning field of epigenetics, studies had shown that trauma and stress cause the body to produce hormones that alter the way our genes are expressed, turning these genes on or off, and that changes to our DNA might be passed from generation to generation.

 

“I never paid much attention before,” Ed told me. “But I can kind of see it. Why do we take advantage of our own people for money? We have a word for that in Hidatsa: ‘Gírashaaci.’ You’re pitiful. You’re poor. Before we had dollar bills, gírashaaci meant you’re poor because you’ve lost your culture. How did that historical trauma make us forget our cultural values?”

Many people on the reservation told me they considered the oil boom another layer in their tribe’s traumatic history. Years from now, they said, their children would talk about the boom just as their elders talked about the flood.

“It created pain, but it reactivated a lot of it, too,” Nathan Sanchez, the tribal officer, said when I visited him another day that spring. He had quit the police force not long after I rode along with him. One call he responded to haunted him in particular: A family of tribal members he knew collided with an oil truck, and all of them died. After the accident, Sanchez had not been able to touch his own son; when he looked at the boy, he saw the face of a dead child. “I started having these anxiety attacks, these weird dreams and thoughts,” he told me. He quit and took a job dispatching trucks for Tesha Fredericks, the same woman for whom KC intended to work when he left Blackstone. Fredericks often pleaded with Sanchez for information regarding KC, but he had none. “It was a relief to get away from being a cop for a while,” he told me. “But I still knew. I drive these highways, and I remember that accident or that house where someone was murdered or raped. It always comes back. I guess for a guy driving to work, that’s just a fence post, but to me, that’s where so-and-so died. People don’t realize how much death and suffering this oil brought.”

 

Now Sanchez worked at the juvenile detention center in New Town. He was happier in this job. He played basketball with the kids every day, and they had planted a garden behind the jail. “One kid’s growing tomatoes. We have potatoes, carrots, melons. This place has given me an opportunity to reach out to these youngsters in a way that I never could when I was a cop. Being a police officer is depressing, because you’re always too late. Here, after the time I spend with these kids, most of them straighten up.”

It was a warm day. I had told Madeleine I would visit, so I left Sanchez and drove to White Shield, stopping on my way at the Arikara Cultural Center. The building was cool and quiet inside. I wandered the outer edge of the main room and came to an alcove, where a hand-drawn map of Nishu had been tacked to the wall. The houses were marked with the names of their former inhabitants—Clair Everett, Charles Yellow Bird, Nellie Red Fox, Benjamin Young Bird—and noted along the banks of the Missouri were forests Madeleine had told me about: cottonwoods tangled with grape vines; Juneberries, chokecherries, and plum trees; and, closer to the riverbank, diamond willow and sweet clover.

A man appeared beside me. A school group would soon arrive for a language lesson, he said, but he wanted to show me something first. I followed him into a room furnished with a table, a wool blanket, and a shelf draped in a shroud. Beneath the shroud was an Arikara bundle, the man said. The keeper of the bundle had put it there, since he was doing renovations on his house. Now people came all the time to pray. The man had seen tribal police officers in the room, as well as elders, and, in the summertime, the tribe paid thirty local youths to work in their community. The man, who helped run the program, brought his workers to pray as well. “They pray those troubles into the bundle,” he said, “and the bundle takes those troubles away.”

 

 

I ACCOMPANIED LISSA and CJ to a Yellow Bird reunion one summer. We left Fargo before midnight. Lissa pushed an Evanescence album into the stereo, and for an hour we just listened to the music until she asked if I would drive. By the time I pulled back onto the road, Lissa had fallen asleep.

The highway was empty, the moon set, the stars shining through the halo of our headlights. I wanted to change the music, but I was tired and afraid to take my eyes from the road. Near Garrison, I stopped the car and shook CJ awake, and slept as he drove the rest of the way. I woke when we turned onto the dirt track that led to Madeleine’s house. Lissa was still asleep in the passenger seat, the album thrumming on repeat. The windows of the house were dark, as were the windows of campers scattered throughout the yard. “Grandma’s man camp,” CJ joked. I pitched our tent facing east, but a pole was broken and in the end I gave up, wrapped myself in the mesh, and tried to sleep.

I woke at dawn to the song of cicadas and birds. The air felt heavy, and the wind had picked up, flipping the cottonwood leaves onto their silvery backs. CJ and a cousin were shooting pellet guns from the porch. I went inside and found Lissa rifling through a kitchen cupboard. “Where do you diabetics keep your sugar?” she called into the living room. Madeleine was asleep in a chair, the television volume turned up high, but Cheryl was awake, sewing ribbons onto a powwow dress for her great-granddaughter.

“Say, is she dancing already?” Lissa said.

“You can’t keep her off the floor,” Cheryl replied.

We drank our coffee on the porch as the sun rose high and hot. Lissa’s uncles sat with their legs spread, their arms limp at their sides. Michael was talking about climate change, but it was hard to say if anyone was listening, and soon he changed the subject.

He had been reading about a Mandan man named Good Bird who had lived in Like-a-Fishhook, the village the three tribes occupied together before federal agents forced them out. “This man Good Bird talks about the difference between white and Indian policing,” Michael said. “When he was an eighteen-year-old boy, he tells his father, ‘Hey, the white Indian agent wants me to be a policeman.’ His dad said, ‘What did you say?’ ‘I said, “I can’t be a policeman. I’m way too young.” ’ The difference was, the Mandan didn’t hire young people to do the policing. Same thing for the Arikara. The police were older men who had achieved certain things in life. And it wasn’t just police. It wasn’t just the chief. The chief deferred to spiritual leaders. Men’s societies. Women’s societies. You had all these systems in place for balance.”

“Balance of power,” said a cousin.

“Sovereignty,” said another.

Lissa had been listening quietly. Now she said, “You know what Tex’s new phrase should be?” She was thinking of his marijuana business and paused for effect: “Sovereignty by the kilo.”

“Ayyyee,” said Michael. “Tex Hall Kush.”

In the midafternoon, we gathered beneath an awning. Irene, in tinted glasses and a floral shirt, stood with a microphone. She spoke with dry confidence, listing the family’s latest accomplishments, not excluding her daughter’s. She liked to tease Lissa while everyone was listening. “Am I missing or am I dead?” she would say. “Because my daughter has finally arrived!”

Irene had been calling Lissa a lot lately, wondering when she would visit next. Now and then, Lissa arrived home to her apartment in Fargo to a package from her mother: Two sticks of lip balm—“One for your purse, one for your car,” a note instructed; a sweatshirt that read PRINCESS. While other relatives expressed surprise that Lissa had been “right about all those people,” Irene denied ever disbelieving her daughter and seemed to be making a more obvious effort to take her side. Recently, Irene had seen Tex at a funeral. “He came over and gave me a hug and little kiss,” she would tell me. “I said, ‘You know, if Wayne was alive, you would have never got in all this trouble. He would have been right there saying, ‘Don’t do that.’ He would have protected you.’ ” Tex had smiled. “I said, ‘Now you behave.’ ”

Others took turns at the microphone. They cursed the oil industry, extolled the virtues of education, told stories that made their relatives laugh. Then a small woman stood. She began in Arikara and turned to English. “I want to pray because there’s been a lot of loss in this family,” she said. “We all experienced pain. It’s going to take some time, because when you go through loss and suffering, you have to allow that time to let go and just let God’s spirit and power come in, fix you and make you whole. Do you know that there is no blood in heaven? There’s only light. Some of you may have dreams, visions. Some of you may have the experience of encountering that light. And when you come into that light, you begin to get your strength back, your healing, your understanding of your purpose. On this reservation, we have a lot to overcome, and we will overcome it. The atrocities, the injustice, all of the things that we feel that the government has taken from us.”

I glanced at Lissa. Her shoulders were bare, turning pink in the sun.

“Creator, God,” the small woman prayed. “Through all the trauma, through all the pain, through all the suffering that we experience, the wounding of our spirit, you are the one that can bring healing. I pray right now that you will start with these little babies, touch these children, protect them, keep them, nurture them, help them to grow up to be strong, O God, and not have the effects of the trauma, the things that we had to go through in our lives that caused us, O God, to do things that aren’t pleasing in your sight. Forgive us, because we didn’t know the damage that caused our spirit to be broken. Lord, I pray that you will heal that emptiness. You blessed us with resources. Let us not be foolish and waste them. And Lord, pray for our leaders. Pray for them, Father. We ask that you give them wisdom and understanding, Lord God. Don’t let the enemy mislead and guide them and direct them on a path that’s selfish, but like our great leaders, help our people overcome all our addictions and our pains, to bring the healing of our trauma and all of the things that caused the brokenness of our spirit, Lord God. Mend and heal our spirit, O God. Renew and strengthen our mind, body, and soul, so that we can be a blessing to one another and our families.”

Her voice rose above the shouts of children on the trampoline, above the singing of girls inside the house, above the pop cans hissing open and forks scraping styrofoam plates, above the cries of babies bouncing on fathers’ laps and the whine of dogs at their feet.

Only Madeleine was entirely still. She sat at a table in the middle of it all, her eyes closed, her feet pressed together, her head rested on fisted hands.

I TURNED TO Lissa again, but she had gone. In the distance, I could see her climbing steps to her grandmother’s house. I followed and found her in the kitchen fixing a plate of food. She was going with some cousins to the cemetery to leave offerings on the family graves.

We rode together out the long, dirt drive and south toward the lake.

Lissa was thinking of Chucky again. The night before he died, he had reminded her of the time she had forgiven her mother—before KC disappeared, after Lissa went on the road trip to Idaho with Percy, where they had visited Percy’s mother. On her way home from Idaho, Lissa had stopped at the farmhouse in White Shield and found Madeleine, Chucky, and Irene seated in the living room. She forced her mother into a tight hug. Mom, I want you to know that everything I held against you, I forgive you for that, she had said, and when she let go, Irene had run into the kitchen—embarrassed, Lissa thought.

But that was not what mattered, Chucky said.

“He told me, ‘I watched your mom’s face, but more important, I watched your grandma’s face. I could see something go over her that was healing for her, too.’ He told me, ‘Everyone always said I was the smartest Yellow Bird, but it was actually you. You found peace with all that trauma.’ ”

The lake stretched so far ahead of us that it might have been an ocean.

This was her burden: to bring up their bodies, to let go their spirits, to bury their bones, again.

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