“Are you crazy?” Mary Sargent’s daughter pleaded, “Don’t get in the car with him!”
That was February 12, 1987 – the last time anyone would see her again. Within hours she’d be reported missing as the man driving the car, with whom Mary had an abusive relationship, would return to the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC) alone.
This same man would reportedly borrow a garden hose from his neighbor and as that neighbor watched, he would rinse out the interior of his car. Information like this led nowhere and eventually the same man would be shot to death by a RSIC police officer after he violently attacked the officer.
Mary Sargent’s story though isn’t a singular one.
In 2016, North Dakota alone had 125 cases of missing women reported to the National Crime Information Center. This statistic and others like it are known to be under-reported and may range into the many thousands.
Of these 125 reported cases, most can be connected to the oil fields. These same U.S. oil fields are generally protected by private security firms, who operate under the watchful eye of the Department of Homeland Security.
Unfortunately, few have been fully investigated with reason’s being ‘lack of funding,’ ‘under-staffing,’ ‘no evidence of foul-play,’ or ‘no body, no crime.’ The majority of women who vanish and whose remains are found, are so highly desiccated and victims of deprivation, that no identifications can be made of the person and they are then buried as ‘Jane Doe’ followed by a serial number.
In Canada, the problem is far worse, with estimates ranging from 1,000 to nearly 4,000 Indigenous women having gone missing or murdered. And again, the numbers are very low due to under-reported cases as Canada does not maintain a database for missing people, which makes it difficult to figure out the rate at which Indigenous women go missing and found murdered, or to even compare information between populations.
Although Indigenous women and girls make up only four-percent of the female population in Canada, they represented 16-percent of all female homicides in Canada between 1980 and 2012. A 2007 study by the province of Saskatchewan – the only one to have systematically reviewed its missing persons files for cases involving Indigenous women – these women were found to make up six-percent of the population, but 60-percent of their missing and murdered women cases.
As for Mary – few to no records exist, as her disappearance was and continues to be considered a ‘very low priority.’ According to Mary’s family, Bureau of Indian Affairs investigators told them two things at the time: ‘she’s an adult and because of her life-style she can disappear if she wants,’ and ‘she’s one less Indian we have to worry about.’
The last time anybody saw Mary, she was wearing a white cotton blouse with ruffles on the shoulders, Levi 501 blue jeans and a pair of light blue and white Reebok tennis shoes. Sadly, that’s pretty much all the information the one official report holds; not her height, weight, age, distinguishing features or even a photograph.
Lastly, where ever she lays, for over three-decades, Mary has had no one to sing her funeral song. It’s time to change this.