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Just Another Indian: A Serial Killer and Canada’s Indifference

by Warren Goulding

In 1996, John Martin Crawford was convicted of one count of first- and two counts of second-degree murder in the 1992 deaths of Shelley Napope, Calinda Waterhen, and Eva Taysup. The remains of the women, who were all aboriginal, were found just outside Saskatoon in 1994.

In the flawlessly structured and clearly argued Just Another Indian, author Warren Goulding, who covered the Crawford trial for Maclean’s magazine, describes the discovery of the remains, the police investigation, and Crawford’s eventual capture, trial, and imprisonment. But this book is more than a true-crime tome: Goulding visited the families of the victims, and he uses their memories (and a series of letters written by the 16-year-old Napope) to paint intimate portraits of the women. These life stories are central to the book’s third purpose, which is to illustrate media indifference to these women (when their deaths were briefly mentioned, the women were dismissed as prostitutes, even though some weren’t).

Goulding also questions aspects of the police investigation. The RCMP never admitted that they knew they were looking for a serial killer. They also knew that Crawford routinely cruised the streets of Saskatoon picking up native women, that he had done time for manslaughter in the death of another woman, and that he had been accused of sexual assault at least three times.

Goulding then goes on to show how between 1991 and 1994, nearly 500 aboriginal women were reported missing in Western Canada, many of whom have never been found. None of these cases made the headlines, and none of these women have been made the flashpoint for massive outpourings of public grief, as frequently happens when white women and girls go missing. Goulding asks who is responsible for the indifference of police, media, and Canadian society, and asks some important questions about racism, classism, and stereotypes about aboriginal women. Why, for example, have their stories and those of countless other aboriginal women been lost, and why don’t their deaths seem to matter?