On an early morning last June, on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota, tribal officer Nathan Sanchez was nearing the end of his shift when he noticed a frantic stirring in the cattails alongside the road. A girl emerged. Her jeans were wet, her halter-top fallen to her waist. Sanchez approached in his car to ask what had happened. The girl, in hysterics, mumbled that she had been raped and took off running.
Sanchez caught her on foot. He saw she was white—not a member of the tribe. “Ma’am,” he recalled saying, though she was only 16, “I know you’re upset, but I need to get you out of here.” He wrapped her in a blanket and led her to the car. Was the man who raped her Indian, he asked? She said he was.
Sanchez met Criminal Investigator Angela Cummings at the police station in New Town, a low brick building that doubles as the Civic Center, and Cummings took the girl into a private room. The victim had run away from Texas to find her father who worked in the Bakken oilfields. He had refused to let her stay with him, and in the weeks that followed, she’d lived with an acquaintance on the reservation.