Warning: This article recounts scenes of rape that some readers may find distressing or triggering.
In this six-part series, Al Jazeera tells the stories of some of the Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or been murdered along an infamous stretch of highway in British Columbia, Canada.
British Columbia, Canada – Fifty-seven-year-old Mary Nikal flops down onto a blue Chesterfield couch. Her scruffy miniature black poodle sits at her feet.
Mary is exhausted. She has given countless interviews to the press over the past 30 years, but they still don’t get any easier.
Her hair – dyed a warm caramel brown – is tied back in a low ponytail, her bangs – with their strands of grey – frame hazel eyes, similar to those of her little sister, Delphine.
Delphine’s pictures are displayed on a nearby table, illuminated by candlelight.
She was 16 years old when she disappeared in 1990 – one of three members of the Nikal family to have vanished; all of them under 20, all of them female.
Less than a year before Delphine disappeared, her 15-year-old cousin Cecilia Nikal went missing from Vancouver. A year before that, in 1988, another cousin, 19-year-old Roberta Nikal, disappeared near the city of Surrey in British Columbia.
“She wasn’t a runaway,” says Mary of Delphine as rays from the setting sun settle upon the houseplants that line the windows of her mobile home on an acreage near the town of Hazelton.
“I was thinking the worst for years … She was either in the river, someone beat her and raped her. Someone overpowered her because she was pretty strong,” she says, forming a fist.