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Redwire ceased publication as a print magazine in March. (Courtesy Redwire Media Society & Tania Willard).

Native youth magazine Redwire to go digital

Redwire Magazine, Canada’s first magazine for Native youth, is getting re-wired. The Vancouver-based publication stopped publishing in March because of…

By Jes Abeita , in Culture Feature story , on October 29, 2009 Tags: , , , , , ,

Redwire Magazine, Canada’s first magazine for Native youth, is getting re-wired.

Redwire ceased publication as a print magazine in March. (Courtesy Redwire Media Society & Tania Willard).
Redwire ceased publication as a print magazine in March. (Courtesy Redwire Media Society & Tania Willard).

The Vancouver-based publication stopped publishing in March because of funding cuts after 12 years in print.

It is now moving to a solely digital product, said Marika Swan, manager and media society member of Redwire.

The decision was forced when the group did not receive its main operating grant of $115,000 from the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres (UMAYC) Initiative earlier this year.

The council that allocates the funds felt Redwire’s national scope was too broad for the grant, aimed at programs to benefit Native youth in the Vancouver area.

The group has been looking for alternative and less expensive ways to operate. A digital edition seemed the best option because there are no printing costs, Swan said.

A launch date has yet to be announced.

Multi-media opportunity

Swan said youth contributors will be trained to use video and audio podcasting to tell the stories important to Redwire’s community through the group’s website.

“We’re trying to diversify a little more,” Swan said, adding that one video workshop had already taken place in which seven youth participated. “There’s definitely a community of young Native people that are interested in film right now.”

Swan said a new interface will allow the youth to post content online themselves, without having to wait for an editor. She said blogs will allow contributors to keep writing as well.

Redwire Magazine was Canada’s first magazine produced by and for Native Youth. It has been an important resource for many Aboriginal communities, whose youth were featured as authors, photographers, artists, reporters and reviewers.

Swan prepares for an auction of artist-carved pumpkins.
Swan prepares for an auction of artist-carved pumpkins.

It has also provided an outlet for stories on Native subjects and issues impacting Native communities.

Despite the benefits of going online, the publication is concerned that the transition could be a problem for large sections of Redwire’s regular readers.

These live in First Nations communities with limited connectivity and access to broadband.

“Streaming would be out of the question for 65 [First Nations] communities [in B.C.],” said Frank LaValley, executive director of the First Nations Technology Council. He added that some communities still have Internet speeds as slow as 56K.

According to Swan, the magazine was also popular with Native people held in Canada’s prisons and youth detention, where Internet access is unavailable.

Swan said the society is looking into a new print project to serve communities with internet connectivity issues. She said no decision has been made on what form a new print project would take.

Figuring out new funding

Other funding options include existing small project-specific grants that pay for workshops and training, and new fundraising efforts. For example, one upcoming fundraiser involves an auction of artist-carved pumpkins.

Another effort is the launch of GetUP clothing, garments featuring Native designs that will be sold by the Society.

“We’re leasing designs and inspirational words from young Native artists and writers,” Swan said.  The artists and writers involved would be paid a fair price for their work she said.

For much of the last decade, much of the society’s funding for the magazine came from a grant made possible by the Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres (UMAYC) Initiative.

The initiative was funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage to give Aboriginal youth access to culturally-relevant community-based programs.

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