Ballad of Yvonne Johnson
“My name is Yvonne Johnson, my native blood is Cree. I’m here to tell the story of the life stolen from me.
“My grandfather’s grandfather was the great war chief Big Bear and Flora my grandmother worked with medicine and prayer. My mother is Saskatchewan, my daddy ex-Marine, and I was just a half-breed falling somewhere in between.
“Raised up in a reckless world of drugs and alcohol, the police killed my brother Earl, the only one who cared at all. Cleft palate split my face in two, no surgery could repair, I lived in shame and ridicule, foundations of despair.
“First memory of my brother Leon, I was only three. He threw me on the table, forced himself inside of me. All the kids stood ’round as I descended into hell. When I told my daddy ’bout it, he had his way as well, boys. He took me down as well.
“I didn’t have a language for the pain I suffered through, escaping into marriage, but your past just catches up with you. Until I had three children and a ragged family, a desperate urge to keep them from the wolves that got to me, boys. Wolves that got to me.
“I wish I could forget that night, the way the cards all fell. The deck was stacked against me, and I played my part so well. Three days on the party in a drunken revelry, Shirley Ann said Chuck had plans to lure my kids from me.
“We stuck him with a dagger and we beat him ’round the head. I unleashed all my anger and I didn’t stop when he was dead. They set me up to take the fall; I went down willingly. Now I’m doing life in prison while the rest of them run free, boys. They’re all running free.
“Grandmother, grandmother, send your prayers to me. Protect me and my children for I love them endlessly. Creator, creator, I have come alive. Medicine Bear Woman doing life at 35. Life at 35.
“I pray: Help me to make my amends to those that I have harmed. Grant them love and peace so they understand I’m sorry. Help me share my shame and pain so others they might do the same. And so awaken to themselves and to all peoples of this world.