Growing up in the North, Mataya Gillis and Cassidy Lennie-Ipana have a lot to say.
From culture and the land they live on, to the everyday issues they face, these Inuvik teenagers are putting their community’s thoughts down on the page through their own magazine, Nipatur̂uq.
The name translates as “to have a loud voice” in Uummarmiutun, a dialect of Inuvialuktun. It’s a title that has a lot of meaning to the two 17-year-olds, as the magazine’s glossy pages offer a place for youth and Elders to speak their mind on important issues.
“We just thought it would be this small thing to show our parents and for them to be proud of us for it,” says Gillis.
But once Nipatur̂uq reached readers for the first time last year, the results went further than the teens imagined.
“So many people are so proud and happy and it really benefited the community,” says Lennie-Ipana. “I love how the magazine is involving youth and also Elders.”
The magazine came about after the two teens attended a summer camp in July, 2019, organized by the Inuvialuit Living History Project. The camp at Ivvavik National Park brought together five youth, from Aklavik and Inuvik, who spent a week learning about their history and culture through Elders and by being out on the land. Over the week, participants had to choose different forms of media to answer one question: what does their culture mean to them?
Participants were open to use any medium they wanted, and so by combining Gillis’ interest in design and photography and Lennie-Ipana’s desire to interview and hear people’s stories, Nipatur̂uq was born.
“Anything that represents Inuvialuit through their own voices is powerful and the girls really engaged with the issues they saw around them,” says Inuvialuit Living History Project co-founder Natasha Lyons. “It’s such a powerful thing to not have settlers always representing their views and voices.”
Tusaayaksat Magazine editor-in-chief Jason Lau took part in the camp and helped the young publishers put the project together. After the camp, Lau continued to help finalize the product, which continues to be distributed alongside Tusaayaksat Magazine’s print run of 3,200 throughout Canada and beyond.
After discussing culture in the first edition, each issue since has focused around one overarching subject impacting Northerners—from climate change to mental health.
“We base the theme for each issue around things that need to be talked about,” says Gillis. “Like, there’s a big stigma in mental health and with climate change, that’s a huge one we see in the North. Everyone in Inuvik and surrounding communities can see changes from the hunting season. So, [with each edition] we look around and see what needs to be talked about.”
Throughout the 15 to 20 pages of each issue, Lennie-Ipana interviews community members to relay how they relate to the magazine’s theme. But with those heavy subjects comes the challenge in finding people to write about and to write for them.
“It’s hard finding people who are very open, especially in a small community where everyone knows everyone,” says Lennie-Ipana. “It’s hard to find people who are ready to tell their stories… so, we really appreciate those who do.”
Four editions in, however, it seems the publishers have a handle on things. They were awarded $25,000 from Canadian Roots Exchange this past fall and have used that money to continue printing more issues. Along the way, they’ve learned some pretty valuable lessons.
“I personally feel like the magazine has benefited me so much within my life,” says Gillis. “Like, gaining skills from being an editor, my writing has improved, my classes are going better, and also having access to another magazine and being able to shadow them—there’s always something new to learn. I’m thankful for how much I’ve already learned.”
In their final year of high school, the two are already thinking about post-secondary plans. While Gillis is torn between going into politics or journalism, Lennie-Ipana is aiming to become a nurse. But their differing career paths and anticipated busy schedules beg the question: what does the future hold for Nipatur̂uq?
Regardless of how, the two hope to see the magazine continue for years to come. One way would be to pass the publishing off to other youth in the community, while the founders oversee the project from afar.
“I want to be able to grow up, have kids and say, I started this magazine with Cassidy,” says Gillis. “I want to be an Elder holding this magazine and to be interviewed about it as an Elder. I want this to carry on for future generations and to continue to make an impact.”