Indigenous activists discuss the difficulties of getting authorities to seriously investigate crimes against Native Americans in a new clip from Dateline’s upcoming special, The Secrets of Spirit Lake, airing August 27th at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
The clip comes from Andrea Canning’s report on missing and murdered Indigenous women, with a specific focus on the disappearance of Carla Yellow Bird. Carla’s case, in particular, exposed numerous issues in how law enforcement handles crimes against Native Americans.
“I’ve heard law enforcement tell the family and even myself that this person is an alcoholic or this person is known to party,” says advocate Lynette Grey Bird in the clip. “And I always cringe when I hear that because that doesn’t matter, they’re still a human being. And if it was a white person who was an alcoholic, would they not be taken, you know, looked at it as a serious matter? I think they would.”
The clip also features Carla’s aunt, Lissa Yellow Bird, who has helped investigate and solve these cases in her community; she talks about the need for better law enforcement training and sweeping reforms at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland — who is the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet Secretary — also discusses the issue at the end of the video, saying, “Because of my perspective, when I see an indigenous woman missing, I see one of my own sisters, or my cousins, or one of my aunties or even my own child.”
The Secrets of Spirit Lake is part of NBC News’ week-long series, The Vanished. Other reports will delve into the difficulties one Indigenous family is facing as they search for their missing three-year-old, while another will explore the history of U.S. and Canadian boarding schools accused of abusing Indigenous children.