Stolen Life

Yvonne Johnson, great-great-granddaughter of Cree chief Big Bear, wrote this account of her life with author Rudy Wiebe.

Rudy Wiebe & Yvonne Johnson

This powerful book was written by the great-great-granddaughter of Chief Big Bear and Rudy Wiebe, twice winner of the Governor General's Literary 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. (From Vintage Canada)

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From the book

To 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 Stranger.

My 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. 

From Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman by Rudy Wiebe and Yvonne Johnson ©1999. Published by Vintage Canada.

Author interviews