THUNDER BAY, ON ---- September 24, 2010 --- I recently had the pleasure of reading an historical novel titled, “Angelique Abandoned: Isle Royal 1845-1846, by James R. Stevens, a writer who resides on the north shore of Lake Superior in Shuniah township.
Angelique Abandoned is based on the true story of a Metis woman and her husband who were abandoned on Michigan’s Isle Royale in the late summer of 1945. The novel is a remarkable tale of one woman’s heartache and struggle to survive a winter in the harsh, unforgiving landscape of dense forests, rugged coastlines and inclement weather conditions.
The story introduces us to a young Angelique Cadotte, a Metis girl born at the great rapids at Sault River, now the site of Sault Ste Marie, where her family traded with the voyageurs. Angelique’s mother, Theresa Cadotte, was an Ojibway spirit woman who had lived in the wilderness all her life and knew where to seek plants and herbs to use as medicinal remedies. Her forest name was the Green Thunderbird Woman and she was said to speak many languages, French, English, Ojibway and a fourth, it was said, to talk to the spirits in the wilderness.
When Angelique was eight, her mother gave her up to a residential school in a move to ward off starvation at the start of an especially lean fall season. In the years that followed, Angelique learned to write her name, read the bible and relinquish her mother’s “pagan” teachings.
After schooling ended, Angelique married a man named Charlie Mott, a travelling canoe man who had spent his days freighting west to Fond du Lac or Fort William for the fur trade. But times were changing, the fur trade was ending, and the beaver were gone. Charlie and his cousin, Rene, found themselves unemployed.
In late June, 1845, Charlie hooked up with a group of Detroit prospectors on the two-mast schooner Algonquin who were seeking to travel to Isle Royale to look for deposits of copper. So Charlie, Cousin Rene and Angelique signed on, as cook and guides to the expedition. What follows is a harrowing tale of greed, bravery and the indomitable power of the human spirit to survive.
This story is told in true storyteller fashion with the author expertly building and layering the story by using clips from existing newspaper print from that time and intertwining it with fictionalized accounts of the authentic characters, including our inspired heroine, Angelique, and the ever stoic grandson Hermit.
While the first part of the story is well written and carries with it vivid visual prose, when Angelique begins to face the enormity of her physical and spiritual trial, and is inexplicably guided by her spirit mother, the words begin to soar with fluidity and fly off the page. This book will have you wanting to read it in one sitting. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Story Treats people with dignity
"Once in awhile I am surprised by how powerful emotions can be emitted from a page. Jim Steven's account of Angelique Abandonned tells a harrowing tale of a young Metis woman who was left with her husband on Isle Royale in 1846. I don't usually do book reviews but I was so moved I want to share this with everyone."
Joy Asham Cree Storyteller
Columnist for The Chronicle Journal
Angelique Abandonned is available at Lake Superior Art Gallery in Thunder Bay, or online at Lake Superior Store