Angelique Abandoned


Isle Royale 1845-1846


Angelique Abandoned by James R StevensAngelique Mott was seventeen when she was deceived and eventually left on her own with no food to survive a frigid winter on Michigan’s famed Isle Royale. Her fight to survive is a heroic epic on the Lake Superior Frontier of 1845 and 46. James R. Stevens’ novella, based on historical fact is an emotional journey with Angelique as she starves and deals with her faith in Christianity and the spirit world of her forest people. Much of the story streams forth in the words of an old Metis grandson living alone on Madeline Island in Wisconsin. Angelique’s journey into a winter of hell begins at Sault Ste. Marie when she and her husband, Charlie Mott ride the schooner Algonquin to the shores of Isle Royale in a search for copper.
“Angelique’s story represents the essence of our true selves, and despite the intrusions of foreign doctrine. James Stevens properly portrays the powerful and mystical ways of our unique spirituality. This, the mainstay of Angelique’s survival crossed by the violent nature of humanity and of nature itself. Angelique teaches us the essential human elements… in yourself and forgiveness to those who have caused so much tragedy. Little did I know that I would be so engulfed in Angelique’s harrowing life experience that I became a part of her journey in such a way that I will never forget. The book reinforces our belief system of never giving up and the power of forgiveness. This story is a must read for everyone. ”

Marlene Pierre—Ojibway Woman Activist—
Thunder Bay, Ontario

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Angelique's Isle, the Movie

An Indigenous heroine gets her due — 170 years later

'I want our women to see how incredibly strong they are,'
Angelique's Isle director Michelle Derosier

Angelique's Isle

Julia Jones as Angelique and Charlie Carrick as Charlie Mott. The young couple were abandoned on a
Lake Superior island in the 1840s. Only Angelique survived.   (Thunderstone Pictures) 

By Tanya TalagaStaff Reporter

Sun., Aug. 20, 2017

Nearly a decade ago, the survival story of Angelique Mott, a young Anishinaabe woman from the 1800s, seized Indigenous director Michelle Derosier.

Angelique, 17, was left to starve to death on a Lake Superior island during the copper rush in 1845-’46. Her story, gleaned from written accounts at the time with gaps filled creatively by Derosier, has become the subject of the acclaimed Indigenous director’s indie feature film, Angelique’s IsleAngelique’s Isle, which will be released next year.

The film is a layered story of Indigenous female power, says Derosier. It speaks to Canada’s colonial relationship with Indigenous people, the greed to exploit natural resources and of racism and the experiences of Indigenous women both in the past and present.

“I felt connected to Angelique,” said Derosier, who is from Migisi Sahgaigan (Eagle Lake) First Nation in northern Ontario. “I want our women to see how incredibly strong they are.”

Based on the novella “Angelique Abandoned” by James Stevens, the film centres on the ill-fated journey of Angelique, played by Julia Jones, and her husband, the French-Canadian voyageur Charlie Mott, played by Charlie Carrick. Angelique’s grandmother, played by Tantoo Cardinal, warns Angelique not to follow her husband and go with American prospectors who are in search of copper.

Angelique ignored her advice. The couple was abandoned by the U.S. miners on Isle Royale in northwest Lake Superior for 10 months. Charlie eventually succumbed to starvation, leaving Angelique to fend for herself in the harsh winter.

Many of Derosier’s artistic endeavours feature Indigenous teachings, knowledge and empowerment — especially of women. Now the co-owner of Thunderstone Pictures, Derosier worked in social services for 12 years, helping at-risk youth from Pikangikum First Nation and at Indigenous schools such as Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School. She also worked with the City of Thunder Bay to produce the Walk-A-Mile film project aimed at teaching non-Indigenous municipal staff about Indigenous culture. Walk-A-Mile helped open dialogue about racism in Thunder Bay.

“I felt ineffective at individual counselling. Then I arrived at story telling,” Derosier said in an interview while she was on a break from film editing in Montreal.

She described Angelique as a powerful woman who used traditional teachings and knowledge to stay alive while she was alone over the course of a brutal winter. “She contemplated eating her husband. But she survived by using her hair to snare rabbits.”

During the writing and filming of Angelique’s Isle (co-directed with Marie-Helene Cousineau), Derosier felt the spirit of her late grandmother Maybel Derosier, a residential school survivor. She was murdered in 1974 at the age of 47. Her story is largely untold, as are many of the historic cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

“She is not a part of any statistics or on any radar. She was my father’s mom and my dad died from drinking,” Derosier said.

When she has probed family about what happened to her — Maybel had 10 children — no one seems to know beyond that she was murdered, possibly by bootleggers.

“As I do this story, I am processing my own feelings about my grandmother. Lots has happened in my life. It has been difficult to trudge forward but this story has kept me going.”

Filmmaker Michelle Derosier is currently editing her first feature, Angelique’s Isle, which will
be released next year.

During the filming of Angelique’s Isle, Derosier was mindful to bring ceremony and her own Anishinaabe cultural practices as she directed.

“Incredible strength comes from this,” she said. She remembers one instance, after the death of her uncle, that during ceremony and prayer she realized “our power of our women and their ability to communicate and manoeuvre between the worlds and how the cultural strength we come from is key to all of this.”

Derosier spent years trying to persuade people that Angelique’s story needed to be told. Tantoo Cardinal, one of the most prolific and decorated actresses in Canada — she has appeared in nearly 100 films and television shows, including Dances With Wolves and Longmire — praises Angelique’s Isle for promoting Indigenous female stories and actors.

Often, Cardinal has played Indigenous female characters in feature films, but they were given limited screen time and development.

“Indigenous women are kind of in the background — even more so with older Indigenous women. I have come through all the ages. As I have aged, the perspective of who we are and what we have to offer has grown over time,” Cardinal says. “This has been a breath of fresh air, it’s been great.”


Feature Film Angelique's Isle based on Jim Steven's book, Angelique Abandoned

About the Film

(in development)

Adapted for the screen from the novella Angelique Abandoned by author James R. Stevens, Angelique’s Isle is a feature film in development along with co-producers Circle Blue Films.  Development is being supported by Telefilm Canada.

The screenplay Angelique’s Isle, written by Michelle Derosier, took home the award for Best Screenplay at the 2015 Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards.

CBC Breaking Barriers Film Fund announces inaugural recipients

The coming-of-age of a 60-year-old Chinese-Canadian woman whose husband is having an affair, a story of survival on frigid Lake Superior and a unique ghost story are all set to be put to film, in part, due to funding from a new CBC initiative.

"When you have a lead character who is not a 20-something, non-person of colour, it's really hard to fund a film," said filmmaker Mina Shum. "We just traditionally in the marketplace underrepresent certain groups."

It's that lack of attention that the Breaking Barriers Film Fund is trying to help overcome.

On Wednesday,Meditation Park, written by Shum, Angelique's Isle, written by Michelle Derosier, and Octavio Is Dead! written by Sook-Yin Lee were announced as the inaugural projects to receive financing through the fund.

The CBC announced the initiative in November 2016 as a way to help level the playing field so that underrepresented creators, such as women, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities and other visible minorities have access to financing.

Shum's project stars Chinese icon Cheng Pei Pei in a bittersweet comedy about a 60-year-old woman in East Vancouver whose life is changed after she discovers evidence of her husband having an affair.

"It's a coming-of-age story is how I think of it — she just happens to be 60," Shum said.

"She spends her whole life taking care of her kids, her English is shaky ... the plight of many isolated immigrant women, and because of something that happened, she actually is forced to venture into the outside world."

'To receive funding has been very, very difficult'

Having money available for artists working outside mainstream film channels can only help increase the diversity of stories that get told, said Michelle Derosier, a filmmaker based in Thunder Bay, Ont., and originally from Migisi Sahgaigan (Eagle Lake First Nation) in northern Ontario.

"To receive funding has been very, very difficult for women," she said. "Let alone an Indigenous woman from a small northern Ontario community."

Derosier's film, Angelique's Isle, is based on a true story of an Indigenous woman who was abandoned along with her husband on Isle Royale on Lake Superior in 1845 by American copper hunters.

"It's a survival story I suppose at its essence," she said. "But it's also about, I think, finding yourself."

The third project, Octavio Is Dead! by Sook-Yin Lee, is described as a "mysterious, sensual ghost story," about a young woman escaping her domineering mother; the story touches on themes of sexual identity, the occult and the power of reality versus imagination.

Among other criteria, each prospective project must be a fictional English-language feature film from a creator who has had at least one feature film at a recognized festival.

$7.5M over next 3 years

The CBC's commitment will see the national broadcaster invest at least $7.5 million into the Breaking Barriers Film Fund over the next three years.

"The first three films selected for the CBC Breaking Barriers Film Fund underscore our commitment to supporting underrepresented creators who reflect the full range of voices throughout Canada," Helen Du Toit, the fund's interim senior director was quoted as saying in a written release issued Wednesday.

All three films are also supported by Telefilm Canada.

Interview with James R. Stevens

Angelique Mott was seventeen when she was deceived and eventually left on her own with no food to survive a frigid winter on Michigan’s famed Isle Royale. Her fight to survive is a heroic epic on the Lake Superior Frontier of 1845 and 46.