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Is The Amulet a True Story?

All the details on the background, history, and setting of our newest historical fiction novel

Is The Amulet a true story?

The Amulet is historical fiction. It’s set in a real time and place, real people from history make appearances in the story, and many of the events that happen in the book (especially the events at the climax of the story) are things that actually happened. But like all historical fiction The Amulet is a fiction. Lots of the characters, situations, and conversations in the story are imagined or are only loosely based on real people and places. Norma’s idea was to capture the mood, the feel, the atmosphere of this time period and give her readers a window into what life was like for people who were living in the Canadian West at the time.

Are Jay Clear Sky and Catherine McNab real people?

Theresa Gowanlock, author of Two Months in the Camp of Big BearJay and Catherine are fictional characters although there was a woman named Theresa Gowanlock who had a similar experience to Catherine during the events at Frog Lake in 1885. Theresa Gowanlock, with her neighbour Theresa Delaney, wrote and published a book called Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear about their experiences at Frog Lake and in the weeks that followed.

Are there any other real people in the story?

Big Bear, Wandering Spirit, Poundmaker, Ayimasees, George Fredrick Middleton, Major Sam Steele, General Thomas Bland Strange, Louis Riel, and Gabriel Dumont were all real people.

Is Pounding Lake a real place?

Pounding Lake is a fictional place but it very closely resembles Frog Lake which was a real settlement in 1885. There are no people living in the place where the Frog Lake settlement once stood but what remains is located approximately 200 kilometres east of Edmonton, near the Frog Lake First Nation Reserve. A commemorative cairn and grave markers can be found at the Frog Lake Historic site and there are archaeological remains including evidence of cellars and building foundations.

What about the killings and the battle in the book? Are those historical events?

Without giving away too much of the story, there are some very specific violent deaths and a battle in The Amulet. Those events in the story are based very closely on events that happened at Frog Lake on April 2, 1885 and on the Battle of Frenchman’s Butte on May 28, 1885.

Why write about this time period?

Norma was trying to overcome the idea that Canadians “won the west”

Norma was trying to overcome the idea that Canadians “won the west.” Most people think that the North-West Mounted Police went out into the west and established law and order. But those men never would have survived without the help of the Indigenous people and when they arrived there were already complex systems of order in place amongst the local Indigenous people. She knew that most people had this inaccurate idea of how Canada was founded and she wanted to right that impression. Those police officers were very fortunate to find people who were willing to help and support them and future governments repaid those people by trying to eradicate their culture and traditions.

What are some of the sources used for this book?

Norma relied on written historical accounts of the time period like J. P. Turner’s The North-West Mounted Police for dates and events, but she was very aware that these resources were from a limited view point. One of the big reasons why she wrote historical fiction was because she wanted to bring more perspectives to our conversations about Canadian history. No one was telling these other stories. Some of her most meaningful research came from talking to and being friends with Canadian Indigenous people. When she became friends with Jean Cuthand Goodwill (her co-author on John Tootoosis: Biography of a Cree Leader) she travelled to a lot of different reserves, especially in Saskatchewan, with Jean as a translator. She and Jean were close friends and they went everywhere together. She also met a lot of different people when she was working at the Friendship Centre in Winnipeg and when she lived in the north end of Winnipeg. People loved to tell her stories because she was respectful and interested.

Want to know more about the events that happened at Frog Lake? Check out these resources:

The Frog Lake Reader by Myrna Kostash 

A collection of multiple perspectives on the events at Frog Lake in 1885, including journal entries, oral histories, and written accounts. Find it here.

Blood Red the Sun by William Bleasdall Cameron (originally Published As “the war Trail of Big Bear”

Cameron was a clerk at the Hudson Bay company store in Frog Lake who was present during the killings at Frog Lake. This book recounts his experiences that day and his subsequent captivity in Big Bear’s Camp. Read it here.

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