Velma Wallis was born in Fort Yukon, a remote village of about 650 people in Interior Alaska, near where the Porcupine River flows into the Yukon. Wallis was raised in a tradtional Athabaskan family, one of thirteen children. When she was thirteen, her father died and she left school to help her mother raise her younger brothers and sisters. Later, she passed her high school equivalency exam and moved to a trapping cabin twelve miles from the village, where she learned to live off the land by hunting, fishing, and trapping. Wallis based her first two books, Two Old Women and Bird Girl and the Man Who Followed the Sun, on the Athabaskan stories her mother told her when she was growing up.
Bird Girl and the Man Who Followed the Sun Raising Ourselves Two Old Women