Julie of the Wolves is the story of a young Yupik Eskimo girl named Miyax, called Julie by her non-native Alaskan family. The girl, orphaned in her youth but highly observant and intelligent, experiences profound conflict as she tries to choose the shape her life will take and whether it will follow the course of modern Alaska or of the tundra. The book uses Julie/Miyax's journey to reflect on cultural imperialism, tradition, and identity.
The story has three parts: first her present situation ( Amaroq, the Wolf ), then a flashback ( Miyax, the Girl ), and finally a return to the present ( Kapugen, the Hunter ).
Julie/Miyax (My-yax) is an Eskimo girl torn between modern Alaska and the old Eskimo tradition. After her mother's death she is raised by her father, Kapugen (Kah-Pue-Jen). In his care Miyax becomes an intelligent and observant girl at one with the Arctic tundra. Life is good until one day when Miyax is sent to live with Aunt Martha, a distant and cold woman.Soon after her father goes out on a seal hunt and doesn't come back. Search parties find four pieces of his boat washed ashore but there is no sign of him. Her father is presumed dead.
Now an orphan, Miyax is never more than an unwanted guest in Aunt Martha's house, so at the age of 13, she accepts a marriage to a boy named Daniel as it will allow her to leave her aunt's house. However, she soon realizes that life with Daniel is no better if not worse than her life with Martha. Daniel has an unspecified type of intellectual disability and after being mercilessly teased by other young people about it, he becomes abusive towards Miyax and sexually assaults her. Caught in an unbearable situation, she runs away in the hope of being able to stay with her pen-pal in San Francisco, California.
Miyax realizes she has no way of reaching her friend and finds herself lost in the arctic wild with only her own strength and knowledge between her and death. She happens upon a wolf pack and is able to coexist with them. She learns to communicate with the wolves to receive food and water and over time they become like family. When she finds a way to return to her old Eskimo life, she is torn between the choice of staying with the wolves or going back to her home.