One cold winter morning, the body of Neil Stonechild was found on the edge of town where he had frozen to death after having been left there by the police. This is the story of the investigation into his death. An investigation that spanned more than a decade.
Right away I knew this story was going to break my heart. It didn’t take long either, within the first few pages my empathy wells were overflowing for what these people endured.
A Starlight Tour is the practice where indigenous people were taken by police to the edge of the city limits and leaving them there to walk back. Perhaps the only thing more shocking then this happening at all, was how long it had been happening. There is a picture in this book of a notice that had been posted in a police break room, detailing an instance in the summer of 1976 of this happening to a woman who was 8 months pregnant. She survived her ordeal and must have made a complaint for such a notice to be posted at the station. This tells us the practice of dropping off indigenous people outside the city had been happening for at least three decades before Neil.
I was outraged and heartbroken as the pieces of Neil Stonechild’s case were knitted together. I was also encouraged by the bravery and persistence of Neil’s family and friends. Starlight Tour paints a gruesome picture of the hard realities faced by the Indigenous population of Saskatchewan. An incredible real life account of the horrors of racism in Canada. From the shocking opening scene to the end, this book drew me in, held me tight, and then left me questioning human nature. An absolute page turner, I finished this book in about three days, but would have been done much sooner if sleep wasn’t a thing I needed. Or you know, going to work.
I have nothing but respect for Neil Stonechild’s mother as she endured this terrible tragedy and steadfastly sought justice for her son. More than punishment of the guilty, she wanted the truth of her son’s story to be told. I was shocked at the minimal initial investigation, and the obvious hiding and disregarding of evidence.
When the investigation finally came to its end, over 10 years later, I was happy for the Neil’s family and friends. But I was severely disappointed by the punishment meted out to those responsible. I can only hope that this is not something that ever happens again.
I feel like the racism Canada’s indigenous population faces is often overlooked if not simply ignored. Just like all victims of cultural genocide and racism, a large population of Saskatchewan’s indigenous peoples are trapped in a cycle of violence not started by themselves. This cycle often includes violence, substance abuse, and poverty. The situation is tense on all sides, but ultimately Canada is seeking to correct this by working together with indigenous leaders by reviewing and implementing suggestions put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Raising awareness can help foster understanding. It will be a very slow process, but I hope to see positive change and a drastic reduction of racism like what Starlight Tour describes, within my lifetime.
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