Publication Details

Jacklin, M, 'What I have done, what was done to me: confession and testimony in stolen life: journey of a cree woman', Kunapipi: Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 29(1), 2007, p 19-33.


Yvonne Johnson’s life narrative, written over a six-year period in collaboration with Rudy Wiebe, tells the story of how Johnson came to be the only First Nations woman in Canada serving a life-twenty-five sentence for first degree murder. Stolen Life: Journey of a Cree Woman (1998) relates the circumstances of Johnson’s involvement with three others – Dwayne Wenger, Ernest Jensen and Shirley Anne Salmon – in the killing of Leonard Charles Skwarok in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, in 1989. In a night of excessive drinking, the two men and two women participated in the confinement, beating, sexual abuse, strangulation and killing of Leonard Skwarok, a man they barely knew, but whom they believed to have molested children and who, Johnson feared, was a threat to her own young children. The murder is brutal. Of the four, Johnson is found guilty of first degree murder, while the others received lesser sentences.