Journal of a Travelling Girl is a historical fiction novel for 9-12 year olds. It’s a coming of age story of a young girl who goes on the annual Tłįchǫ canoe trip retracing the trails of their ancestors on their way to the 2005 celebrations for the effective date of the Tłįchǫ Agreement. The book follows three best friends and their adventures on the journey. The teachings mainly come from one of the girl’s grandparents through stories they share around the fire about their traditional way of life, Treaty 11 and the subsequent self-government agreement. The old-time stories were shared with Neema by elders of Wekweètì between 1999 and 2002. Themes of the book include friendship, community, grief/loss, healing, personal growth and connection to the natural world.
Journal of a Travelling Girl was published in October 2020 by Wandering Fox / Heritage House in Canada and Orca Books in the USA and went to second print in March 2021. The audiobook was released in September 2022 by Penguin Random House Canada. The book was shortlisted for three awards – two Canadian Children’s Book Centre awards, namely the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction, and the Jean Little First-Novel Award, and the Quebec Writer’s Federation Janet Savage Blachford Prize for Children’s and Young Literature. It was also longlisted for the First Nation Communities Read Award. The audiobook was Booklist’s Top of the List Editor’s Choice for 2022 youth audio. The audiobook contains sounds recorded by Neema while living in Wekweètì and music by the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School Drummers.
Born in Montreal of Lebanese descent, Nadine Neema is an award-winning multi-disciplinary artist. She has four albums of songs and spoken word poetry. She has toured internationally opening for artists such as Joe Cocker & Elton John, and was mentored by Leonard Cohen, who co-produced her 2nd album. Neema began working in Wekweètì, NWT in 1999, first as a community manager, then assisting with land claims negotiations under Chief Negotiator John B. Zoe. She has maintained a strong bond with the community through workshops, photography projects, and canoe trips. Neema leads creativity, songwriting and storytelling workshops to empower youth to find their own voice.
For more about Neema click here.
Archie Beaverho is an accomplished painter, illustrator, and cartoonist whose understanding of his Tłįcho 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.
Tłı̨chǫ – Dogrib (descendants of the Dene, an Athabaskan Indigenous People of the Northwest Territories.
Wekweètì – the smallest of the four Tłı̨chǫ communities. The place where Julia lives and from where the canoe trip begins.
Gamètì – the second smallest of the four Tłı̨chǫ communities
Whatì – the second biggest of the 4 Tłı̨chǫ communities
Behchokǫ̀ – biggest of the 4 Tłı̨chǫ communities – the place where they are paddling to for the effective date of the Tłı̨chǫ Agreement
mahsì – thank you
mahsì cho – thank you very much
dagawo – drum dance
orì – spruce
sèotı̨ - family
Warm up - Look at Tłįchǫ Lands on a map. Prompt students to share what they know about life / communities in the North. How many have participated in outdoor activities like canoeing, portaging etc
The Sounds Of The Dogrib/Tłįchǫ Language https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu3Nzl2ieEw
Oh Wekweètì – a song I wrote with Tłįchǫ students and video of their community
Day 1 The Departure: Compare/contrast life where you are with Wekweètì life. Put a question mark beside items that students aren’t sure about (ie internet access?) Write ideas on a whiteboard and record with a photo for reference.
Some reading comprehension questions -
- What is the name and nickname of the little girl writing the story?
- What is the name of the community where she lives? What is the name of the town?
- Who was Uncle Joe and what happened to him?
- How old is the little girl and who are her 2 best friends?
- Where are they heading during their canoe trip?
Day 1 The Secret Branch: Discuss loss, sadness, and mourning.
Question: what do you do when you are feeling very sad? Can you relate to how Jules is feeling?
Watch video https://youtu.be/5MQcF52OUH4 to help students visualize the landscape and people.
Hand out Venn Diagram template for students to write differences/similarities between Tlicho life and Montreal life.
Day 2 Communities and cultures around the world have words that are special to them. Can you think of some you and your friends use? (E.g., "like", "awesome", "dope")
Can you think of examples in this story? (“ever”)
Day 3 - 4: Intro to Treaty 11
“ as long as the sun rises, the river flows and the land does not move” What do you think Chief Monfwi meant when he said this?
Video of hand games
Day 5 - 6: Discussion of old ways versus new.
Question: Why is it important to know how things were done in the past? What do Jules and her friends learn about the old days?
Day 7- 8: Quick read
Preparation for Treaty 11 1921 discussion // replacement by Tłįchǫ Agreement 2005
Here is some intro to Treaty reading: https://www.canadashistory.ca/education/kayak-in-the-classroom/treaties/treaties-educational-package
Questions: The Tłįchǫ Agreement is meant to honour and update Treaty 11, the last numbered treaty signed with Canada's First Nations in 1921. Based on what you've read: What is a treaty? What is a land agreement? What is self-government? https://www.canadashistory.ca/education/classroom-resources/making-treaties
Questions: What are some of the emotions people are feeling during their arrival? Why is this moment so important?
Drum dance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_V_59dlRUw
Some reading comprehension questions -
- Why did Jules’ journal skip from Day 11 to Day 14? What was she doing?
- What did the Tłįchǫ People put in the fire and why?
- What did Jules choose to feed the fire?
- What does “Mahsi” mean?
- Throughout her voyage (canoe trip as well as her inner journey) who do you think was spiritually with Jules to help and support her? Name five.
- What did this adventure inspire Jules to become?
-At the end, how is the protagonist feeling about her canoe trip and the TłĮchǫ Nation?
Wrap Up Options
- How does Jules change or grow during her trip? Name 3 events or moments from the journal that show a moment of growth or understanding. Can you relate to this? Describe a moment from your life where you have changed or grown a lot.
- What have you learned about the relationship between Tłįchǫ and Canadian government? How do *you* fit in?