Friends, in the words of famed Northern writer Richard Van Camp, Nadine Neema’s new book about the annual Tlicho Canoe Trip “deserves to be in every Northern classroom!”
Not only is this coming-of-age story of seven-year-old Jules 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.
In the foreword by Elder and former Chief of Wekweti, Joseph Judas, this author has been a part of the community now for 30 years, since serving as band manager in the late-1990’s.
I first met Nadine in Yellowknife about that time and was very much struck with her music. A song in her debut album paid tribute to the late Tlicho statesman, Alexis Arrowmaker.
That kind of respect shines throughout this jewel of a read.
To give an idea of the kind of commitment which goes with the events described, the small village of Wekweti sits right at the treeline, with the vast Barren Lands to the East. Few other places in the North are harder to reach.
By canoe all the way south to Behchoko takes a great deal of planning, for safety alone, in the words of John B. Zoe, “honed by many generations.”
At first little Jules doesn’t want to go at all, missing among other things, her Uncle Joe, who has just passed away.
She joins the group anyway and gradually begins to learn the wisdom of the Elders and the history of an unforgiving land, slowly gaining confidence in her Tlicho self.
These are the kinds of lessons we need to pass on to our youth.
I can also especially relate to the delightful story, with illustrations by Tlicho artist Archie Beaverho. In comparison with other Northern artists I’ve always been impressed by the amount of detail and unfailing reference to the land and culture by the Tlicho.
One final connection is through a member of my Indigenous PhD Studies community, Celine Vukson, whose brother George Mackenzie is the Grand Chief of the Tlicho Government.
Celine was talking about the totally trying exams we have to endure, as part of our PhD process.
She said that at the time her argument with our Trent University’s Indigenous Studies Department had to do with her Dene belief that our particular type of research has to be part of Community, the People.
She won her case and future students can now do their written exams as she did, going along on this very Tlicho Annual Canoe Trip!
Suffice it to say that a book like Journal of a Travelling Girl by Nadine Neema will set young feet firmly on the path for whatever future they choose for themselves, to make more history.
Mahsi, thank you.