Communicating their future plans
NCS looking to revive Native Press

Anne-Marie Jennings
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 21/98) - The Native Communications Society of the Western Arctic announced plans to work towards the reinstatement of the Native Press as part of its mandate for the coming year.

At the society's recent annual general meeting, a number of resolutions for the future were voted upon, and NCS chairman J.C. Catholique says after five years of struggling with financial difficulties and other internal problems, NCS is able to look toward the future.

The first day of the two-day meeting featured presentations by a number of influential speakers, including Western Arctic MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew, who presented delegates with her vision of what NCS could become -- including her hope that the society could bring back the Native Press to its one-time glory.

"She kind of grew up with that, and so did a lot of the other speakers," Catholique says. "I think we all would like to see it back again."

Other invited speakers also spoke of their memories of the Native Press, including MLA Roy Erasmus and Dene Nation leader Bill Erasmus.

The hopes of restarting the Native Press got a boost from other speakers at the meeting, particularly from Don Jaque, owner and publisher of the xxxSlave River Journal in Fort Smith. During his presentation to the delegates, Jaque not only lent his support to the idea of establishing a journalism program at Aurora College, but told the delegates he would be interested in opening his newspaper to students from the school.

"He's got the technology in place, and he's willing to work with the students," Catholique says. "We could operate the Native Press from Fort Smith."

For Catholique and the other members of the board of directors, the establishment of a journalism program and the re-establishment of the Native Press would serve to create a better knowledge base as well as foster stronger communication links between the communities in the Western Arctic.

"We don't have a lot of qualified journalists. The people we do have are there because they can speak the language, but there is a need for more training to ensure quality broadcasting and reporting."

"Our strength lies in our communities."

In addition to the plans for the Native Press, there are also proposals to develop more television programming with the possibility of greater involvement in the Aboriginal People's Television Network, a proposed nation-wide television station which would feature programming which focuses on the First Nations' people of Canada.

"Abe Tagalik (president of the proposed Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) spoke to the delegates to provide them with an update on the progress which has been made," Catholique says.

The new television network is scheduled to hit the airwaves in Oct. 1999, and NCS delegates heard that not only has there been a great deal of support generated within the aboriginal community across Canada, but that the new station will be looking for qualified individuals from all regions of the country -- including the North.

NCS is currently in the process of putting together a team to operate the day-to-day tasks of the communications society, and Catholique is quick to add that those who will be selected will be fairly independent to manage the responsibilities they have been given.

"They will have control of what's going on," Catholique says. "In the past, I think one of the bigger problems for NCS was that the board was too involved. What we want to do is let them run the show."

While the board of directors will step back from the day-to-day operations at NCS, Catholique says there will still be a great deal of work ahead for the board.

"We have to revise the society's bylaws," he says. "Most of them are ancient, and need to be updated."

"In the past, we've always been struggling to make sure we have enough money. Now that we have come out of five years of running a deficit, we can now start with a clean slate."