Leslie Lounsbury publishes the largest native magazine in the world.
And she does it from her kitchen table.
“It’s not a get-rich-quick business,” said Lounsbury from her Manitoba home on Thursday.
That’s not why she does it.
Lounsbury got sick of hearing nothing but negative news about First Nations.
“I was fed up,” she said.
So, after six years of planning, she launched SAY Magazine — for and about native youth.
The publication is “there to promote hope,” said Lounsbury, who will be in Whitehorse next week to participate in a job fair for young First Nations people.
There are very few forums for native youth, she said.
“And we’ve never had a lot of material from Whitehorse.”
SAY publishes poems by young people, prints their stories, and features successful natives as role models.
“We distribute the magazine to youth so they can see natives featured in a variety of careers,” said Lounsbury.
The magazine also broaches some tough topics.
“We’ve had stories from young women who were in the sex trade and got out,” she said.
“They’ve talked about how easy it is to get in to it and how hard it is to get out.”
SAY has also run stories about youth involved in gangs and drugs.
“The stories aren’t pretty,” said Lounsbury.
But all the stories end on a positive note.
SAY is often a resource for First Nations, she said.
“So much money is spent on establishing programs and services,” said Lounsbury.
“But virtually zero is committed to awareness of these programs.”
In one of the stories about the sex trade, the young woman was very candid about her own stupidity, vulnerability and naivety.
“And now, she is part of an organization that provides assistance to young native women who want to get out of the sex trade — that’s the hook we will take on these stories,” said Lounsbury.
“There is so much negative media coverage of our community.
“But there are also so many positive things happening in our community that our own people are not aware of. So how can we expect mainstream media to be aware of this unless we take the bull by the horns and start promoting the positive?”
Aboriginal publishing is tough, said Lounsbury.
There’s not a lot of money. “And we spend a lot of time educating the mainstream about our people.
“They think we’re all drunks on Main Street.”
Advertising to First Nations also proves tricky.
“How do I advertise my product to a group that does not have any discretionary income?” she said.
“We have lots of money in our community, but we also have lots of poverty — it’s complicated.”
Lounsbury and her staff publish four glossy, 80-plus-page youth magazines each year, as well as two special editions — one focusing on native economic development and the other on how to recruit and retain native workers.
“We have a huge number of young people who are ready willing and able to take the jobs, but corporate Canada says we can’t find anyone to take the jobs and we’ve got to go outside of Canada.
“But really we have the capacity here — it’s just being under-utilized.”
SAY distributes more than 12,000 copies each run and has just started a sister magazine in the US.
On January 10th, Lounsbury is coming to Whitehorse to attend the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation’s career fair, Blueprint for the Future.
The aboriginal foundation holds two fairs annually, one in the East and one in the West, or North.
This year, it’s in the Yukon.
The concept is to bring native youth to a career event where there’s a mix of national companies and local employers, said Lounsbury.
During her stay, the Manitoba Métis is hoping to establish contacts with local youth and First Nations artists.
“The native art coming out of Whitehorse is amazing,” she said.
“We’d like to do some profiling and look for supporters.”
The upcoming career fair can accommodate up to 1,800 youth from grades 9 through 12.
There will be motivational speakers and role models, such as aboriginal physicians, for the youth in attendance, as well as approximately 100 career workshops ranging from business/finance to science and technology.
The event is scheduled for January 10th at the Canada Games Centre.