North

Father and son resurrect N.W.T. Indigenous newspaper Native Press after decades

A Yellowknife father and son are publishing the Native Press again — an Indigenous newspaper in the Northwest Territories that began in 1971.

‘I don’t see us,’ says Zach Dahl, about the representation of northern Indigenous Peoples on newsstands

Zach and Roy Dahl hold up the first issue of the new Native Press, released this January. (submitted by Roy Dahl)

It was a simple father and son exchange in front of a newsstand at a local Shoppers Drug Mart that led to the resurrection of the Native Press, an Indigenous newspaper in the Northwest Territories.

Roy Dahl, who used to work for the paper, was getting a prescription filled and then met up with his son Zach, who was standing in front of the magazine stand.

"I looked to my dad and said: What do you see?" said 22-year-old Zach Dahl. "I don't see us."

He told his father something needed to be done and "we need to step up. I gave him suggestions and hints that we should start up the paper again."

Roy said Zach's nudges were frequent, and six months later, father and son resurrected the Native Press.

Acquiring the name wasn't easy. An individual had acquired the name back in 1993, after the paper dissolved because of cuts to funding.

"After some conversation over a course of several months, the individual finally said well, OK," said Roy.

By last December, the duo had acquired the name, a business licence and pumped out an issue for the first week of the New Year.

Paper had 'quite a following'

The Native Press began in 1971 as a "newspaper for the native people of the Northwest Territories."

"Certainly at that time in particular, the news in the aboriginal communities was seriously neglected," said Lee Selleck, editor for the paper in the 1980s.

"It was the desire from the chiefs and leadership to see that change."

The Native Press started garnering "quite a following" because of the size of the Indigenous audience in the North, said Selleck.

'It built a whole kind of sector of Aboriginal journalists across Canada," said Selleck.

"There was a real sense of mission among all of us."

It was Selleck who hired Roy Dahl.

"And I guess the rest is history," said Selleck.

'The Native Press belongs in the North, and it should always stay in the North,' says Roy Dahl. (CBC)

Native Press 'belongs in the North'

Over the years, people, including Dahl, have made unsuccessful attempts to resurrect the paper. In 2009, he tried to get it going again, but only managed to publish a few issues. 

The latest issue is just a few pages. But Roy said, in time, he hopes it will be filled with anything from poetry to features from the North.

"The Native Press belongs in the North, and it should always stay in the North," he said.

Zach is being trained by his father to take over the paper in a few years and the two are hoping that more youth will contribute to the paper.

"We want the next generation to take over," said Roy.

The monthly paper will run as independent, because Roy says he's "very cautious" about outside funding.

Limited copies will be printed, and people will be able to access articles online soon, says Roy.

Clarifications

  • This story has been updated to include the fact that people, including Dahl, made unsuccessful attempts to resurrect the Native Press since the 1990s.
    Feb 08, 2017 11:28 AM CT

with files from Mark Hadlari, Loren McGinnis

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