This fictional coming-of-age story traces a young girl’s reluctant journey by canoe through the ancestral lands of the Tłı̨chǫ People, as she gradually comes to understand and appreciate their culture and the significance of their fight for self-government.
“Journal of a Travelling Girl deserves to be in every northern classroom. There is so much to learn here, and there is so much to celebrate.” —Richard Van Camp, Tłįchǫ author of The Lesser Blessed and Moccasin Square Gardens
Eleven-year-old Julia has lived in Wekweètì, NWT, since she was five. Although the people of Wekweètì have always treated her as one of their own, Julia sometimes feels like an outsider, disconnected from the traditions and ancestral roots that are so central to the local culture.
When Julia sets off on the canoe trip she is happy her best friends, Layla and Alice, will also be there. However, the trip is nothing like she expected. She is afraid of falling off the boat, of bears, and of storms. Layla’s grandparents (who Julia calls Grandma and Grandpa) put her to work but won’t let her paddle the canoe. While on land Julia would rather goof around with her friends than do chores. Gradually, Grandma and Grandpa show her how to survive on the land and pull her own weight, and share their traditional stories with her. Julia learns to gather wood, cook, clean, and paddle the canoe, becoming more mature and responsible each day. The journey ends at Behchoko, where the historic Tłı̨chǫ Agreement of 2005 is signed, and the Tłı̨chǫ People celebrate their hard-won right to self-government. Julia is there to witness history.
Inspired by true events, this story was written at the request of John B. Zoe, Chief Negotiator of the Tłı̨chǫ Agreement, as a way of teaching the Tłı̨chǫ youth about that landmark achievement. Journal of a Travelling Girl has been read and endorsed by several Wekweètì community members and Elders. The book will appeal to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children for its relatable themes of family, loss, coming-of-age, and the struggle to connect with tradition and culture.