Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 9 to 12
- Grade: 4 to 7
This fictional coming-of-age story traces a young girl’s reluctant journey by canoe through the ancestral lands of the Tli?cho 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, Tlicho 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 Tli?cho Agreement of 2005 is signed, and the Tli?cho 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 Tli?cho Agreement, as a way of teaching the Tli?cho 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.
About the authors
Born in Montreal of Egyptian and Lebanese descent, Nadine Neema is a multi-disciplinary artist and workshop facilitator. As a recording artist she has released four albums; was mentored by Leonard Cohen; and has opened for artists such as Elton John, Joe Cocker, and Cyndi Lauper. Neema began working with the Tli?cho in 1999, first as a community manager of Wekweètì, a small isolated Tli?cho community in the Northwest Territories, then assisting with their land claims and self-government negotiations under Chief Negotiator John B. Zoe. Since the landmark Tli?cho Agreement in 2005, Neema has maintained a strong bond with the community of Wekweètì and has returned periodically to conduct creativity workshops for the youth and photograph many of their events.
Archie Beaverho is an accomplished painter and illustrator, whose Tli?cho Dene culture is reflected in his work. He creates paintings of spiritual activities of his people, like drum dancing, hand games, and hunting. He lives in Behchokò, Northwest Territories.
Joseph Judas is a respected Elder and leader of the Tli?cho People of the Northwest Territories, Canada. A former Chief of the Wekweèti community, he serves as chair of the Wek’èezhìi Renewable Resources Board. He is active in traditional knowledge research related to caribou monitoring with the Ekwo' Naxoehdee K’è (Boots on the Ground program). He spends much of his time on the land.
"Journal of a Travelling Girl is an absolutely wonderful and timely book that will appeal to girls and boys of any race, colour, or creed. During this time of reconciliation it is necessary for all young people to learn and embrace the ways of our Indigenous ancestors. This book will do that!" —Verna J. Kirkness, author of Creating Space: My Life and Work in Indigenous Education
"As a person born and raised right on the land, Nadine Neema's Journal of a Travelling Girl rings as true to me as the blue skies and open land she so lovingly recounts." —Antoine Mountain, Dene writer and artist
"Journal of a Travelling Girl is not only about people who generously welcome a young girl to share in a special journey, but it introduces readers to an important moment of history." —Kathy Lowinger, co-author (with Eldon Yellowhorn) of What the Eagle Sees: Indigenous Stories of Rebellion and Renewal and Turtle Island: The Story of North America's First People
"Nadine Neema presents a unique and enlightening glimpse into the customs and culture of the Wekweèti community while exploring themes of acceptance, tolerance, equality, and reparation. . . This is a crucial and timely story. A must read for young readers!" —Tina Athaide, author of Orange for the Sunsets
"A wonderful account, through the eyes of a young girl, of our people’s ways of doing things today, guided by our strong history of storytelling." —Tammy Steinwand, Director, Department of Culture and Lands Protection, Tlicho Government
"What an absolute treasure for the Tlicho Nation and for the world. . . 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, Tlicho author of The Lesser Blessed and Moccasin Square Gardens