As search for Olivia Lone Bear ends, a new Fargo task force begins

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(Valley News Live) - The brother of a missing North Dakota woman confirmed with Valley News Live that Olivia Lone Bear’s body was found in a pickup truck submerged in Lake Sakakawea, on the Fort Berthold Reservation, earlier this week.

The 32-year-old mother of five had been missing since late October 2017, when she was seen leaving a New Town, N.D. bar in her pickup.

As the search for Lone Bear appears to end, a new task force here in Fargo begins.

Ruth Buffalo is from Lone Bear's tribe in the New Town area. She’s joining forces with other Fargo women, who say they want a different future for their daughters.

"You know when we lose our women, we're, entire population and future generations are impacted,” Buffalo said. “So it's a huge loss on our communities."

More than nine months after Lone Bear went missing, family and law enforcement say they’re confident her body's been found.

"Just sadness and frustration that we still aren't....getting the work done in order to keep it from happening,” Fargo mother, Whitney Fear, said. “I'm only 31 and I can't remember a time when I thought, ‘geez things are really getting better for Native people.’"

But amid the tragic outcome, comes a new spark for change. Fear and Buffalo are two of 15 members of Fargo’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Human Trafficking task force.

The MMIW coalition is a transcontinental movement to stop violence against Native American women and children. But Buffalo and other Fargo neighbors first started this local task force after the disappearance of Savanna Greywind.

Greywind went missing from her North Fargo home almost a year ago on Aug. 19, and more than a week later was found dead in the Red River.

Now the Fargo women say this latest injustice with Lone Bear has fueled the fire to fight harder.

"I think that's something that should be front and center: justice and preventing this from happening to anyone else," Buffalo said.

Buffalo, who’s been aiding the Lone Bear search throughout the past year, calls the disappearance of Native women an epidemic.

"The higher numbers of our Native American women go missing at an alarming rate," she said.

Whitney Fear, also a member of the task force, says it’s not just Native women targeted. She saw the same thing in her South Dakota tribe.

"Where I grew up people went missing all the time and were killed all the time," she said.

Fear says she wants to see a better future for her daughter: one where justice is served.

"I don't think oftentimes people who victimize indigenous people are brought to justice because either the victim is unwilling to report because they don't think anything is going to be done about it...or they are afraid of repercussions."

One issue they want to see a change in? Lack of communication.

"Poorer policy for one,” Fear said, “it's really unclear when the FBI takes over and when BIA, Bureau of Indian Affairs, continues on a case."

The women are working to raise awareness—and raise funds.

"Law enforcement on the reservation are always stretched way too thin because the lack of funding, I guess," Fear said.

But this fight, they say, goes beyond just the indigenous tribes.

"We need allies too,” Fear said, “it can't just be Native people paying attention, to this issue."

The effort, they say, should involve the whole community.