To those interested in the future of Redwire

Hello Redwire Readers,
*** for those of you interested in the future of Redwire pls read***

My name is Marika Swan. I come from Tla-o-qui-aht Territory on the westcoast of Vancouver Island. I am a writer, I am an artist and I have a passion for facilitation and conflict resolution. I believe as communities, we each hold a piece of the puzzle. If we can find ways to work together, communicate with each other, overcome our own shortcomings, and HEAL… together can find the new ways and solutions that our earth needs so greatly. This is something that I strive for.

I started with Redwire 7 years ago when I was 22, I knew very little about the organization and i jumped into it with blind faith based in how reading Redwire Magazine made me feel. The magical thing about having a project that is youth driven is that it gives us an opportunity to accomplish more than we initially realize we are capable of. After 7 years, the learning curve has been steep and enriching.

Redwire Magazine was created by sisters Nena and Billie Pierre in 1997. After a few years Tania Willard took over Redwire Magazine and created a separate non-profit Redwire Native Youth Media Society. They got their core funding from the Urban Multi-purpose Aboriginal Youth Centres (UMAYC) Initiative from Canadian Heritage with some other side funding from other areas. UMAYC is a body of funding that is controlled by a Native youth council which has created an incredible pocket of projects that would probably never be funded otherwise. When Tania hired me to take over, Redwire Magazine had been publishing for 7 years with a strong national readership, a couple CDs under its belt and many, many successful shows to boot.

What a gift! A new crew and I took over trying to fill some big shoes in 2005. We pushed the project in a variety of different and exciting directions. We made epic fumbles and tested boundaries and I am insanely proud of every single one of those mags. There are many pages that still bring tears of joy to my eyes. After another 4 years of publishing Redwire with new staffing coming and going, the youth council decided they did not want to fund a magazine with a national focus. They wanted more localized projects and suggested a website as a new more affordable forum for discussion.

The year we lost funding for the magazine was hugely devastating for us all but a year later we were able to successfully apply for a new website project that would take the spirit of Redwire and incorporate video and audio online. With podcasting, youtube and social networking sites there are so many new ways that Native youth are finding ways to express themselves. I have since moved home to the westcoast and have been doing what I can to support a new crew at Redwire. Julian Napoleon has been our Online Project Coordinator for 2 years and this year we were also able to hire Chandra Melting Tallow as our Arts Director and Cheyanna Kootenhayoo as our Video Coordinator. They have been posting great articles, audio, video and artwork and I have greatly enjoyed watching the website take life.

BUT our relationship with our funders has become more and more unreliable. For the last two years our first payments have been 6 months late forcing staff to wait around for an undetermined amount of time until their jobs start up again. And this year, after our project was up and running, we went a month with no word about when our second payments would arrive forcing us to borrow money to cover staff wages and rent over the holidays and January. Holdbacks have been arriving later and later putting us under very stressful financial strains. The shifts in government have had devastating impacts on a huge range of arts and public service orgs. Everyone is feeling it.

This summer I turn 30 and I will be aging out of Redwire. Julian who has been sharing the coordination role with me for the past two years will also be moving on to go back to school.  We are at the point, where yet again a younger crew needs to take up the reins in order for the organization to continue. However after the last two years of completely unreliable funding from CCAY I am very cautious to hire new staff into this unstable financial position. Both Julian and I have recommended to Redwire’s Board of Directors that we retract our proposal for another year of funding. We are encouraging them to consider other kinds of funding or volunteer run models. This would mean that unless we could find another funding substitute we would give up having paid staff and a central office space.

For many years I have thought critically about continuing to take government funding. In my experience this has always been a compromise. The hoops we need to jump through and the checks we need in all the right boxes have become increasingly more taxing. I know it inhibits us from being truly uncensored. I often wonder if we directed all the energy we have devoted to dancing this dance to simply creating the media we want to see… where would we be? For me, Redwire is a vehicle. It is a well known conduit that our stories pass through. It does not contain any of the people who have devoted so much care to it. I know regardless of direction Redwire takes WE will continue on with the passion to do what must be done in our communities. We always take with us the lessons we have learned and the stories that have impacted us. 

Our board and staff are continually meeting to discuss what our options for Redwire are.

My question to you is: What advice would you give to all of these young leaders who are working so hard to create spaces for their peers coming up?
All feedback is greatly appreciated.

Marika Swan, Tla-o-qui-aht
Manager, Redwire Native Media Society
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