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Children's Fiction Native Canadian

Idaa Trail

by (author) Wendy Stephenson

illustrated by Autumn Downey

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Jun 2005
Native Canadian, Multigenerational, Environment
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jun 2005
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2005
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 7 to 10
  • Grade: 2 to 5
  • Reading age: 7 to 10


Etseh, Etsi and their three grandchildren have just embarked on a month long canoe trip in the Northwest Territories -- from the town of Rae to Hottah Lake. They are following the Idaa trail, a trade route that the Dogrib people have traveled for hundreds of years.

Etseh and Etsi traveled the Idaa trail when they were children and as they paddle north with their grandchildren they pass along their knowledge of special sites along the way and explain how their people survived in the old days -- building birch bark canoes, fishing with willow lines and muskrat-tooth hooks, and ambushing herds of caribou.

This remarkable work, based on ten years of archaeological research, documents the past and present of one of the most intact tribal cultures of North America.

About the authors

Wendy Stephenson is Curator of Education at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. The archeological research on the Idaa Trail inspired her to write this book, and she has canoed many parts of the trail described in the story.

Wendy Stephenson's profile page

Autumn Downey's illustrations appear in Shield Country by Jamie Bastedo (The Arctic Institute of North America) and the Arctic Ecozone Poster series. She lives in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

Autumn Downey's profile page


  • Runner-up, IODE Violet Downey Book Award

Editorial Reviews

Written with simplicity and reverence, this 64-page chapter book is a valuable instructional tool which introduces young readers to the DENE Nation and to the Dogrib way of life.

CM Magazine

Librarian Reviews

Idaa Trail: In the Steps of Our Ancestors

The Idaa Trail is a historic trade route, which has been travelled for hundreds of years by the Dogrib people of the Northwest Territories. Today the Dogrib population of 3,000, one of the most intact tribal cultures within North America, occupies the area between Great Slave and Great Bear Lakes.

This book begins as three Dogrib children embark on a four week canoe trip along the Idaa Trail with their grandparents, Etseh and Etsi. Their route takes them along rivers, lakes and portages from Rae to Hottah Lake. Etseh and Etsi had traversed this same route when they were young, and they now wish to teach their grandchildren about their heritage as they paddle north. En route they share traditional survival techniques, the history behind an abandoned village, the legend of the giant wolverine at Sliding Hill, and the haunting tale of a woman’s gravesite. Author Wendy Stephenson, Curator of Education at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, intriguingly reveals the Dogrib history, traditions and culture using the gentle voice of a storyteller. The information contained in the nine chapters unfolds from painstaking archeological research and the oral tradition of the Dogrib people. An afterword contains important historical information about the various sites along the trail. Also included is a helpful glossary of Dogrib terms and definitions. The numerous detailed watercolour illustrations by Yellowknife artist Autumn Downey provide readers with the sense of the beauty, vastness and isolation of the north.

Idaa Trail will be an important addition to libraries across Canada. It tells a story of our country’s people. All readers will learn from it and gain a heightened appreciation of an aspect of Canadian history which might otherwise be overlooked. This book will also be published in Dogrib. Masi cho (thank you very much), Wendy Stephenson and Autumn Downey!

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Fall 2006. Vol.29 No. 4.

Other titles by Wendy Stephenson