Stolen Life: The Journey Of A Cree Woman

Stolen Life: The Journey Of A Cree Woman

Paperback | March 31, 1999

byRudy Wiebe, Yvonne Johnson

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The powerful, major book, acclaimed across Canada, from the great-great-granddaughter of Chief Big Bear and Rudy Wiebe, twice winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction. A story of justice and social injustices, of murder and morality, and of finding spiritual strength in events that might break us, told with redeeming compassion and poetic eloquence. Stolen Life is a raw, honest, and beautifully written account of the troubled society we live in, and a deeply moving affirmation of spiritual healing.

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Stolen Life: The Journey Of A Cree Woman

Paperback | March 31, 1999
In stock online Available in stores
$17.90 online $23.00 (save 22%)

From Our Editors

Written with the help of award winning author Rudy Wiebe, this acclaimed novel tells of Yvonne Johnson's experience while imprisoned for first-degree murder in 1991, and the spiritual strength she eventually found. A compelling story of murder, morality, justice and injustice, Stolen Life: The Journey of A Cree Woman is Johnson's accou...

From the Publisher

The powerful, major book, acclaimed across Canada, from the great-great-granddaughter of Chief Big Bear and Rudy Wiebe, twice winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction. A story of justice and social injustices, of murder and morality, and of finding spiritual strength in events that might break us, told with redeeming compassi...

Yvonne Johnson a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, was imprisoned for first-degree murder in 1991 in the Kingston Federal Prison for Women. Married with three children, she is now at the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge for Native Women in Saskatchewan.Rudy Wiebe is the author of three short-story collections, eight nove...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:464 pages, 7.97 × 5.14 × 0.94 inPublished:March 31, 1999Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0676971962

ISBN - 13:9780676971965

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from A stolen life If you have ever doubted Canada's justice system this book will prove you are right.It seems if you can't afford a good lawyer you don't stand a chance.This is a story about a woman who has overcome many obstacles in her live.For example;born with a disability to a mother who grew up in a residential school;having a white father and alcoholism.Yuonne is the mother of three children who are the center of her live as is her spirituality.Protecting them from the falling victim to the same grim events of her live got her a Twenty-five year sentence.This book is real,harrowing in parts, but still difficult to put down till the end
Date published: 2000-07-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An incredible tale of endurance My book club read this book last month. It was not a book I would have picked up on my own. I am very glad I read it. At first I wanted to reach in and pull Yvonne out of her terrible life. But then as I got to know her I began to understand the web she was tangled in. Her family, her culture, her life experience all added up to an inability to get out of it. Yet she tried and she endured. I would recommend this book. Not an easy read, but certainly an educational one.
Date published: 2000-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beyond Recovery ? Anyone, who thinks that life has given them a bad deal, should read Medicine Bear Womans account of a recovery beyond comprehension. An in-depth demonstration of what our spirit can overcome. Everyone has it, and Medicine Bear Women shows how it may be found. If you are in recovery from any of lifes difficulties, you owe it to yourself, to read this book. If you think you cannot overcome and recover, compare your ordeals with Yvonne's, and your life's troubles will seem so much less significant. I recommend this book for anyone in a 12 Step Recovery program, or those who think they should be.
Date published: 1999-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stolen Life: Journey of a Cree Woman This book was excellent. It really helps you see what it is like to grow up being abused. I couldn't put it down. I would suggest it for anyonewho is trying to understand abuse. It also has a really good story behind it. Five Stars for me!!!
Date published: 1999-10-28

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Prefatory NoteThis book is based on what Yvonne Johnson holds to be her own truths about the life she has lived. However, since there is never only one way to tell a story, other persons involved in this one may well have experienced and remember differently the events and actions here portrayed. The book is also based on my research into the circumstances of Yvonne’s life. Besides over five years of dialogue with her, this research involved travel to various places crucial to the story; interviews wherever possible; attendance at trials; and the gathering of data from court, police, government, school, and newspaper records in both Canada and the United States.I have gathered together Yvonne’s words, as given in the present text, as she and I agreed, from various sources: largely her seventeen black prison notebooks, her letters to me, her comments on official records and documents, her statements to police, my notes of our conversations in person or on the telephone, numerous audiotapes. She has a natural gift of language, which at any moment will follow a detail and widen into incident, story, often humour. This was at first sometimes confusing, even disorienting, until I recognized that her thinking was often circular, revolving around a given subject, and her writing almost oral in the sense that I had to catch the tone of her inflection to understand exactly how the incidents she was remembering connected; where the expanding images or even parables with which she tried to explain herself were leading. These qualities can only be fully appreciated when talking with Yvonne face to face, but I hope this book will give its readers a good flavour of such a conversation.What is remarkable and enlightening is how Yvonne’s powers of writing have expanded during her time in prison. Her first letter to me (November, 1992, quoted at length in the first chapter) was as chatty as her talk still is; her formal education could, at best, barely be called erratic and ended in Grade Eight, but even in the earliest of her writing that I have seen she had a profound ability to capture an astute perception with words. For example, during her trial in March, 1991, she handed to her lawyer a long analysis of a relative, which included this comment:“She is a woman of many faces. . . . You know, the only feelings you get from her is one of her faces. One of her strong feelings is fear, anger. And she has a tongue like a knife in your heart.”Reading has helped her think and write. By 1998, after years of reading widely and deeply–including the works of Carl Jung, some of whose books she read and re-read while making copious notes–and thousands of pages of writing–by pen, typewriter, computer–Yvonne’s imagistic insights have widened into longer, much more coherent explorations and descriptions. The written language of her perceptions and her natural oral story-telling ability have grown immensely, to become acute, distinctive, and often beautiful.The selection, compiling, and arrangement of events and details in this book were done in a manner the two authors believe to be honest and accurate. Public documents are quoted selectively, but with every attempt at fairness and accuracy.The actual names of people are used when their identities are a matter of public record; for others, and in the case of all persons at present minors, the names are pseudonyms. Also, the spelling, punctuation, and grammar in Yvonne’s letters and notebooks have been standardized.— Rudy Wiebe, Edmonton, April 1998***O Creator of all, I pray you, look at me, for I am weak and pitiful.I pray,help me to make amends to all those I have harmed;grant them love and peace, so that they may understand I am sorry;help me to share my shame and pain, so that otherswill do the same, and so awaken to themselvesand to all the peoples of the world.Hai haiYvonne Johnson, Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, April 1998***1Blood Runs Thick and Longand For EverNothing just happens, my friend, unless it was meant to be. . . . If we are guided under the Bear, then even our futures can be changed. . . . You and I may have been chosen long ago to meet, and our past has given us each a gift of understanding.— Yvonne Johnson to Rudy Wiebe, 24 December 1992To begin a story, someone in some way must break a particular silence. On Wednesday, 18 November 1992, in Edmonton, Alberta, I received an envelope from Box 515, Kingston, Ontario. Inside, folded into quarters, was a long sheet of paper typed from top to bottom, edge to edge, solid with words on both sides. It began: Howdy Howdy StrangerMy name is Yvonne Johnson. I am currently an inmate at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario. I am thirty-one years old. I am a Cree from Saskatchewan, that is where my ancestors come from. We were accepted back into my grandmother’s rez after my mother was kicked out for marrying my father, who is a White from Great Falls, Montana. My grandmother Flora was a Baptiste, my grandfather was called John Bear, I lost him a few years back now; and my grandfather’s grandfather was the Cree chief Big Bear.On either side of the straight Saskatchewan road, the lines of barbed-wire fence try to square the land into right angles on the curving earth. The land is white here in January 1996, prairie-snow flat, and on this morning frigid fog hides the world; I can see nothing of sun beyond the fence. At the road crossing, where I feel the pavement end, I stop, turn right, and drive south–the Cree direction of the Law of Order, which is the natural order of Creation, the order of how things will happen. I need that today: order.The road disappears ahead into limitless mist, slopes down a little and east, then straight south again, with all the land now rising about me. Gravel clatters, swerves. White-tailed deer feed above brush on the bare shoulders of a ravine; they will look up only if I stop, probably scatter if I get out, so I continue moving, very slowly. The temperature is twenty-two below, but the deer are spaced delicately at ease, heads bowed to their feeding scrawls in the snowy earth, and when the ravine hides them again I continue my watch into the grey mist, into its brightening; waiting. And then, imperceptibly, the high hills begin to emerge.They are very nearly upon me, their folded shapes covered with hoar-frosted trees, the mass of the Cypress Hills like immense, furry animals kneeling down tight together, brilliant as spun glass against the sudden blue sky.The road ahead vanishes again down into mist, then reappears once more, higher, like a question mark up into the hills.The Stoney people called them pa-ha-toonga, the Thunder-Breeding Hills.–The “Howdy Stranger” letter continued:I was accepted by the Red Pheasant Reserve south of Battleford, but I do not know where I truly belong. As you may be aware, in 1885 my family and band were spread all over this continent after the imprisonment of Big Bear. I don’t know where to start, or where to go from here, but I have a will and hopefully you can help to guide me somehow. I have been through a lot in the last few years. I don’t have that much education, just what I’ve learned or I think I’ve learned over the years. I try to fake it a lot; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t [. . .].Well, once again, I am thirty-one and mother of three children and a stepson. I was born in a place called Kalispell, Montana, and raised in Butte, Montana. My brother was killed by the cops there when I was nine and my family, or what of it we had, went all to hell. My mom went on the aim [American Indian Movement] march from Wounded Knee to Washington in 1972 to see if she could get anything done about my brother’s death, but came back empty and soon filed for divorce and said she was going back to her people. I stayed with my father, as no one else would and I could not leave him alone like that. All the other kids, minus the one brother who was in prison, went with my mom to Canada. Me, I was pulled back and forth a lot, as I am born with a cleft palate and lip and only in the United States would the Crippled Children’s Fund pay for the repair I needed. I had a hard life and it keeps getting harder. I think it’s a deep sense of true justice and understanding and of true knowledge I search for that keeps me going.And believe me, death seems a lot easier and a lot less painful at times, but I guess I truly am a sucker for punishment. What can I say? I still hang in. Well, I just wish my life would change for the better at some point. I don’t want to die this way, with nothing settled or overcome. I need to fight, I need to know where I come from and why our race suffers so from the hands of my White brothers. Just because I went through my first thirty years in silence does not mean I went through it blind and deaf as well. If anything, my silence enhanced my keen sense of observation–had to get the dictionary out for that one. All my luck, I probably copied it wrong! . . . My mom’s a Cree from a residential school in Sask.; my father is a ex—U.S. Marine of the Norwegian race. My dad was out of the war for a short time when he met my mom, who had also just got out of a hell of her own, the Indian school. Quite a combo, hey? There were seven kids in my family. Anyways, I don’t hold it against them; they tried as best as they knew how. And I love them. I just hate reality, it’s so cruel and unkind. But I hold history responsible for that as well. You see, I’ve spent the last thirty years running from it, but due to imprisonment I was forced to stop running, and that’s so hard.

From Our Editors

Written with the help of award winning author Rudy Wiebe, this acclaimed novel tells of Yvonne Johnson's experience while imprisoned for first-degree murder in 1991, and the spiritual strength she eventually found. A compelling story of murder, morality, justice and injustice, Stolen Life: The Journey of A Cree Woman is Johnson's account of the troubled society we live in. Powerful and eloquent, this is a book about Indian life, of stolen land and stolen lives.

Editorial Reviews

"Stolen Life is 'a gift of understanding' — A compelling story infused with hope and spirituality —." —The Financial Post"Stolen Life is] the rarest of treasures— an unexpected joy — Here are two friends who prove to one another that individuals can reach across a nation's mistakes, and offer forgiveness — an amazing collaboration. [A] triumph — Yvonne Johnson and Rudy Wiebe have written the book that will shatter the silence, revealing secrets about stolen land and stolen lives, if only we are brave enough to confront their meaning." —The Edmonton Journal"Brilliant— Rudy Wiebe works here like a great jazz guitarist ... with consummate skill. An essential [book] for anyone who believes [in] establishing justice." —The Toronto Star“The story [is] told as poignantly as Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, and every bit as heartbreaking as Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees. Stolen Life [demonstrates] the humbling and unyielding power of forgiveness, a power that lives on, in spite of everything, in nameless but heroic people like Yvonne Johnson.” – The Georgia Straight