The ACLU of North Dakota with the law firm of Nichols Kaster, PLLP, filed a complaint against the federal government on behalf of Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase, a White Shield, N.D., woman who was assaulted, humiliated and dehumanized by law enforcement officers with the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Standing Rock Detention Center in Fort Yates, N.D.
In February 2021, Yellow Bird-Chase was driving a client she had rescued from sex trafficking to a rehabilitation center when she was pulled over for speeding. BIA officers later took her to the Standing Rock Detention Center where they forced her to remove her clothes in the main booking area in front of several officers, robbed her of more than $800, stole her prescription medication, and subjected her to abuse, assault and inhumane conditions in an overcrowded, unsanitary jail cell without access to food for nearly 18 hours. Through these officers, the United States violated the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows individuals to sue the federal government and seek monetary damages.
Yellow Bird-Chase is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. In 2013, she helped start Sahnish Scouts, an organization that helps search for missing and murdered Indigenous people. Since the organization’s founding, more than a hundred families have sought Yellow Bird-Chase’s support in cases where their loved ones are unaccounted for. Sahnish Scouts not only publicizes missing persons but also searches for them, assisting or filling in for law enforcement.
Yellow Bird-Chase’s experience highlights law enforcement’s racial profiling and abuse toward Indigenous women, compounding the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and people in North and South Dakota. This case seeks to hold the United States accountable and draw awareness to the danger Indigenous women like Yellow Bird-Chase face in their daily lives.
The complaint was filed in federal court in the District of North Dakota Western Division.