By Rick Garrick
MANITOULIN ISLAND—The inaugural edition of the Canoe Kids magazine featuring the Anishinaabe people of Manitoulin Island was a hit with readers across Canada and the United States.
“It’s going great,” says Kelly Brownbill, senior editor for Canoe Kids. “It’s amazing the response we get. As soon as we put the magazine in someone’s hands, they are just blown away by it.”
Brownbill says the Anishinabek community was “thrilled” that they were provided with an opportunity to tell their own story.
“One of the things that is different about how we do business is that we move into the community and listen to the stories and create the magazine that way,” Brownbill says. “Every time we tell someone’s story, they get the first refusal of the article. So if someone said: ‘No, that is not how I want to be represented,’ then we wouldn’t print it. The Indigenous way of doing business is making sure everyone moves together in the same way. That is what they are happy about — the way we are doing it is that they are allowed to tell their story, they get to have first refusal so they know that their story is being told accurately, and they feel very safe.”
Brownbill says there has also been a positive response from the non-First Nation community about the opportunity to access “authentic” information about First Nation people.
“The non-Native community is so overwhelmingly thrilled to have an authentic tool in their hands,” Brownbill says. “Teachers are unbelievably happy about it. Families are unbelievably happy about it because they know they are getting authentic information.”
Kevin Milne, contributing editor/media lead for Canoe Kids, lived on Manitoulin Island while gathering information and stories for the inaugural edition last summer. Brownbill also gathered stories on Manitoulin Island.
“No other publication does that — they have a very strict editorial schedule and they want to get the story and get out again,” Brownbill says. “We are actually moving in. The Canoe Kids team actually just returned from six to eight weeks out in Haida Gwaii [for the second] edition.”
The second edition of Canoe Kids features stories from Haida Gwaii, a group of islands on the north coast of British Columbia. The publication was being printed in mid-July and is expected to be available soon.
“And we are right in the middle of writing our third issue, which is coming from Newfoundland,” Brownbill says. “It’s the story of the Mi’kmaq of Newfoundland.”
Brownbill, a member of the Flat Bay community of the Mi’kmaq Nation in Newfoundland, says the Newfoundland issue is about the founding of a nation.
“Qalipu First Nation is the newest First Nation in Canada,” Brownbill says. “It is still being formed. They still haven’t finished the founding members list.”
Brownbill says the publication features stories about contemporary First Nations people as well as traditional stories, so non-First Nation children will realize that First Nations people are not just something out of a movie and that they share this country with them.
“Every magazine will be unique because the community is really the editor, the community drives the creation of the magazine,” Brownbill says. “Every magazine will be unique, not just because of the nation we are highlighting, but because they get to tell their own stories.”
Brownbill says each issue of Canoe Kids will feature a variety of stories, including stories about a traditional teaching, a vessel from the community, an artist, a fun zone for children, and online resources for children, parents, and educators.
“There is no advertising in the magazine because we didn’t want to have editorial control,” Brownbill says. “We are funded completely by subscriptions.”
Subscriptions are available online at http://www.canoekids.com.