Dear America Wiki
Dear America Wiki

"I am trying to establish some sort of order in our days here, as I'm sure Mother would have wanted. Father says that I am still a child and that I should go out and play. Play! What can he be thinking? It is up to me to make sure that this hut is clean, that the clothes are mended, that there is food to eat, and that Robbie is properly supervised."
Isobel Scott[2]

Footsteps in the Snow: The Red River Diary of Isobel Scott is the fourth book in the Dear Canada series. It was published in March 2002 by Scholastic Canada. The book was written by Carol Matas, her first for the series. It was followed by A Ribbon of Shining Steel by Julie Lawson.

Isobel Scott and her family immigrate to Rupert's Land, where they encounter many unexpected problems.


"For my young cousins, a new generation of hardy Winnipeggers: Miranda and Hannah Baran, Daniel, Rebecca and Max Asper, Stephen and Jonathan Asper, Sarah and Olivia Asper (and any new additions yet to come)"

Book description[]

"November 3, 1815
We arrived today at The Forks! So much has happened since my last entry, and weeks have passed. Near the end of the journey we had to endure another trial. We ran out of food. The hunters were only finding small game, not nearly enough to feed such a large group. At times all I could think of was my empty stomach.
This morning when we arrived the sun shone. On the rough wooden dock, waiting for us, were thirteen families–the only settlers who had not been driven away by the North West Company.
It was chaos as news was exchanged. I looked around anxiously to get a good view of our new home, but it all looked similar to the landscape we had just travelled. I was anxious to go exploring. I was about to suggest this to James and Robbie when Father hurried over to us and stated, "We cannot even unpack. The settlers have not had a chance to rebuild since the attack. Apparently there is not enough food for us to spend the winter here."
I cannot yet believe it. Such a long and difficult trip, only to discover home is sill beyond our grasp.

"Le 3 novembre 1815
Nous sommes arrivés aujourd'hui à La Fourche! Il s'est passé beaucoup de choses depuis la dernière fois où j'ai ouvert ce journal, il y a déjà plusieurs semaines. Vers la fin de notre voyage, nous avons dû relever encore un autre défi. II ne nous restait plus rien à manger. Les chasseurs ne trouvaient que du petit gibier, et même pas en quantité suffisante pour nourrir tous ces gens. Par moments, la seule idée que j'avais dans la tête, c'était celle de mon estomac vide.
Ce matin, quand nous sommes arrivés, il faisait soleil. Sur le ponton de bois, 13 familles étaient venues nous accueillir — les seuls colons qui n'avaient pas été emmenés ailleurs par la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest.
C'était la pagaille, tandis que tous se donnaient les dernières nouvelles. J'ai examiné avec attention ce qu'il y avait autour de moi afin de me faire une idée de notre nouveau chez-nous, mais le paysage était exactement le même que celui que nous venions de traverser au cours de notre voyage. J'avais hâte de pouvoir aller explorer tout ça. J'allais le proposer à James et Robert quand papa s'est précipité vers nous et nous a dit : « Nous ne pouvons même pas descendre nos bagages. Les colons n'ont pas eu la chance de reconstruire l'établissement depuis l'attaque. Il n'y a pas assez de réserves de nourriture pour que nous puissions passer l'hiver ici. »
Je n'arrive pas encore à y croire, même si je suis en train de l'écrire dans ces pages. Faire tout ce long et difficile voyage pour apprendre que nous ne sommes pas encore rendus chez nous.


In 1815, the Scott family decides to travel to Rupert's Land to join a colony sponsored by Lord Selkirk, whom was granted the land by the Hudson's Bay Company. The family has heard of some trouble with North West Company, but they are not discouraged. Devastatingly, Isobel's mother passes away from an infection just before they set out on Princes of Wales. The first few months of the journey are marked by sadness as Isobel, her brothers James and Robbie, and her father grieve. Isobel starts a diary as a way of talking to her mother.

After reaching land, the settlers spend several days at a fort in York Factory. Another grueling journey begins with Métis and Cree as their guides along the river to The Forks. The settlement has not recovered from an attack the previous year. The newcomers are forced to leave and travel south for the winter. In their new camp, the Scott family shares a hut with Kate McGilvery and her father. Kate has acted like she hates Isobel since their time on the ship, but somehow she always finds Kate nearby. They later follow the Cree still farther south.

Isobel befriends a Cree woman White Loon, who challenges her views on Indians. White Loon's family informally adopts the Scotts', resulting in close bonds between both families. The following spring, Isobel is shocked when her father announces his intentions to marry White Loon. Isobel finds is hard to accept even after the wedding. Finally, they make their return to The Forks where they build their own home. Tensions between Hudson's Bay and North West boil over. Cuthbert Grant attacks the settlement, forcing the settlers to flee to Fort Douglas.

The settlers ultimately leave the fort after Cuthbert Grant threatens murder. They make yet another journey and camp on the banks of Jack River for the winter. Kate, meanwhile, has joined the Scott family since her father died in the attack. Though many expect to return to Scotland, Isobel's father remains hopeful that they will be able to stay. Isobel befriends several girls who are Swampy Cree and is sad to part with them when they receive word that they can return to The Forks. Lord Selkirk had heard of their plight and took back the fort from the North West. Isobel prays to her mother, saying "We will live free in this new land."


Historical Note[]


Main article: List of Footsteps in the Snow characters
  • Isobel Scott is a twelve-year-old girl reeling from her mother's recent death. She tries to take over her mother's role as her family settles in Rupert's Land.
  • Kate McGilvery, an eleven-year-old traveling with her morose father. Her prickly personality annoys Isobel, who initially believes that Kate dislikes her.


Main article: Carol Matas

Carol Matas is a Canadian writer primarily in the historical fiction genre. Aside from Footsteps in the Snow, Matas has contributed Turned Away and Pieces of the Past to Dear Canada. She is also the author of Behind Enemy Lines from I Am Canada. Matas, who lives in Winnipeg, did a lot of local research for Footsteps in the Snow. She developed an admiration for Selkirk's settlers, marveling at how they managed to survive the harsh months of winter.



  • Manitoba Historical Society, Margaret McWilliams Award (2002) - winner[5]
  • OLA Silver Birch Award for Fiction (2003) - shortlisted[6]
  • McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award (2003) - shortlisted[7]
  • Canadian Toy Testing Council, Great Books of the Year (2004) - commended[7]
  • Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre (2003) - commended[7]


"I would like to thank the many experts who helped me with this manuscript: My researcher, Lewis St. George Stubbs, archival assistant at the University of Manitoba, was tireless in his quest for the facts. Dr. Jack Bumsted, Professor of History at the University of Manitoba, read the manuscript for accuracy. Anne Morten, Head of Research and Reference at the Hudson's Bay Company Archives, was kind enough to answer my questions. Dr. Bill Waiser of the Department of History, University of Saskatchewan, read the final version and made many valuable suggestions. Barbara Hehner carefully checked a multitude of facts. My editor, Sandy Bogart Johnston, worked very hard with me on the manuscript, and I thank her for all her help. And thank you to Diane Kerner for her comments as well."



See also[]

Dear Canada

Orphan at My Door | A Prairie as Wide as the Sea | With Nothing But Our Courage | Footsteps in the Snow
A Ribbon of Shining Steel | Whispers of War | Alone in an Untamed Land | Brothers Far from Home | An Ocean Apart
A Trail of Broken Dreams | Banished from Our Home | Winter of Peril | Turned Away | The Death of My Country
No Safe Harbour | A Rebel's Daughter | A Season for Miracles | If I Die Before I Wake | Not a Nickel to Spare
Prisoners in the Promised Land | Days of Toil and Tears | Where the River Takes Me | Blood Upon Our Land
A Desperate Road to Freedom | A Christmas to Remember | Exiles from the War | To Stand On My Own
Hoping for Home | That Fatal Night | Torn Apart | A Sea of Sorrows | Pieces of the Past | A Country of Our Own
All Fall Down | Flame and Ashes | A Time for Giving | These Are My Words

External links[]