Redwire Mag restrospective - Interview with Tania Willard

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Are there any stories that stick out that have really impacted you?

When people talked about their cousin getting the magazine and being really moved and touched by it in the same way I was when I found Redwire. In this one story her cousin was feeling suicidal, not feeling like she had a place and when she saw Redwire she was really excited about it. That kind of story really sticks with me.

What would you say you learnt about yourself and your own strengths?

I was 24 when I started there. I grew up on and off reserve. So I was connected but disconnected from home and any other community. So I learned a lot about who I was, through hearing other people’s stories. It made me stronger in who I am. Being mixed blood. Having lived in the city and moving back and forth to reserve. Maybe not feeling totally at home in either of those places. That’s where I am coming from and as long as I am humble and able to honour people’s words then it’s not that important.

It was hard too, it was a lot of work and I never really acknowledged it cuz I often felt that I was in a very privileged position to be honored by those words and stories. I always felt that I needed to be stronger and do more and do more and do more. I eventually realized that that was an unhealthy model for me and for other people at Redwire. I learned about my own limits and when I need to take breaks

What are the different values reflected in a Native run publication?

Billie and Nena always said we’re not journalists. We’re not doing this to be any kind of mainstream media outlet. We are doing this to take initiative, to tell our stories. We needed to tell them to make space for ourselves, for our viewpoints and for our culture. We tried to do it all fairly collectively in the beginning. And that worked in some ways and in some ways not. Just how running things in any workspace is. Some people start doing more than others or different things. It is hard to do things collectively when not everyone is contributing at the same level. But we still worked very collectively. Obviously in more mainstream media there is very clear hierarchies in terms of roles.

What were the really challenging parts?

The challenging parts goes back to the power of words and the responsibility of that. So when we made mistakes it wasn’t like you made a mistake in the Vancouver Sun and then you cover in the next one as a typo.  Redwire is connected to the people that write for the magazine. I think that goes down to a pretty deep level, a spiritual level in some ways. So when I did make a mistake, I felt terrible. I mean I didn’t have experience with that level of publishing either. We were publishing 10,000 copies nationally. Where I was used to photocopying maybe 100 copies of a zine.

How have your perspectives changed?

One thing that has shifted is that I came in feeling pretty militant and political. I had a social justice background and that was fine. That is the beautiful thing about Redwire, there is space for things like that. And not that that is lost but it has rounded out in the years I spent at Redwire. I started to find lots of power in stories that weren’t politically focused in the same way as, let’s say, an anti-capitalist article but it was an amazing story about Native youth learning their language in Grade 4 up in a northern community. And that was really powerful for me and really political but it wasn’t the rhetoric of the political language that I had come in versed in.

What do you see as possible new directions for Redwire?

In some ways I can see why some people are saying online printing and recording, blogging makes a lot more sense. It’s a lot less resources but sometimes a lot of those rural reserves we are shipping to don’t have anything faster than dial-up internet. I think the print magazine is still important in that way. I still think there is nothing like Redwire. There’s other Native media out there but I don’t think any of it compares to Redwire. It’s a gathering place. That circle that we are all a part of.

There is something about having something tangible too. You can feel it, it’s beginning and it’s end.

And you can keep it.

 

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