This fictional coming-of-age story traces a young girl’s reluctant journey by canoe through the ancestral lands of the Tlicho People, as she gradually comes to understand and appreciate their culture and the significance of their fight for self-government.
Eleven-year-old Julia has lived in Wekweètì, NWT, since she was four. Although the people of Wekweètì have always treated her as one of their own, Julia sometimes still feels like an outsider, disconnected from the traditions and ancestral roots that are so central to the local culture.
When her best friends, Layla and Alice, invite her on a canoe trip, Julia is excited. 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 even paddle the canoe, becoming more mature and responsible each day. The journey ends at Behchoko, where the historic Tlicho Agreement of 2005 is signed, and the Tlicho 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 Tlicho Agreement, as a way of teaching the youth of Wekweètì 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.