Journal of a Travelling Girl

By (author): Nadine Neema
Illustrated by: Archie Beaverho
Foreword by: Joseph Judas
ISBN 9781772033175
Softcover | Publication Date: October 13, 2020
Book Dimensions: 5.5 in. x 8 in.
144 Pages

About the Book

• Finalist, 2021 CCBC Jean Little First-Novel Award
• Finalist, 2021 CCBC Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
• Shortlist, 2021 Janet Savage Blachford Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature (Quebec Writers Federation)
• Longlisted, 2021 First Nations Community READ

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.

About the Author(s)

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 Tłı̨chǫ in 1999, first as a community manager of Wekweètì, a small isolated Tłı̨chǫ community in the Northwest Territories, then assisting with their land claims and self-government negotiations under Chief Negotiator John B. Zoe. Since the landmark Tłı̨chǫ 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 Tłı̨chǫ 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 Tłı̨chǫ People of the Northwest Territories, Canada. A former Chief of the Wekweèti community, he serves as chair of the Wek’èezhìı Renewable Resources Board. He is active in traditional knowledge research related to caribou monitoring with the Ekwǫ̀ Naxoehdee K’è (Boots on the Ground program). He spends much of his time on the land.


"Journal of a Travelling Girl serves as an introduction to modern land claim and self-government negotiations for a young audience through the lens of a narrator their own age. Equally important, it offers readers insight into a momentous part of both Tłįchǫ and Canadian history."
Quill & Quire
"Readers interested in Tłıcho culture or Canadian history will find much to appreciate."
School Library Journal
“What an absolute treasure for the Tłįchǫ 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, Tłįchǫ author of The Lesser Blessed and Moccasin Square Gardens
"Neema has written a well-researched and well-supported story full of Tłı̨chǫ knowledge. The book has been read and reviewed by Tłı̨chǫ Elders and nation members to ensure accuracy and authenticity of information. Neema worked in Wekweètì as a manager in the Tłı̨chǫ government in the 1990s and has continued close ties to the community since she moved away. Archie Beaverho’s love for his Tłı̨chǫ heritage can be seen in his artwork throughout the book."
Canadian Indigenous Books for Schools
"Not only is this coming-of-age story . . . an informative one about the Tlicho land settlement, but a very entertaining read. The conversational tone, not an easy one to sustain in written form, makes it hard to put down."
—Antoine Mountain, News North
"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
Journal of a Travelling Girl gives young readers the chance to imagine themselves on a journey as they read about it through the main character… Neema clearly conveys the modes of teaching afforded by the journey and the community’s Elders, as well as the historic moment the Tlicho Agreement for self-government and land ownership came into effect… The author shares from a place of knowledge, in deep collaboration with the First Nation concerned… This is an important story, not just for those whose lives it touches directly, but for all in Canada.”
—Jury for the 2021 CCBC Jean Little First-Novel Award
“A truly engaging story of a young girl’s coming of age as she embarks on a reluctant canoe trip with her friends and their families… Journal of a Travelling Girl takes readers on a culturally enlightening journey filled with adventure and discovery…bringing out the beauty of the North and the Tlicho culture… This book should be in every school library."
—Jury for the 2021 CCBC Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
“The writing is full of respect and love of both the land and its peoples. A tale rich with history and heart, [Journal of a Travelling Girl] uplifts and edifies its readers, not only as a tale of a young girl dealing with grief, but as part of the broader conversation surrounding Indigenous communities and their sovereignty, and the path to reconciliation. This book demonstrates a good example of collaboration and respectful relationships being developed between the author and the community she is writing about; this is key in the ethics of sharing Indigenous stories and teachings.”
—Jury for the 2021 Janet Savage Blachford Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature (Quebec Writers Federation)
"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
“A story based on a real experience, told through a lens of youthfulness following an ancient trail, a renewing of kinship to the landscape, an annual ceremony honed by many generations.”
—John B. Zoe, Senior Advisor, Tłįchǫ Government