Promoting Reading, Preserving Culture
Aboriginal printing and publishing business is making a difference.

by Waub Rice

Although Aboriginal cultures throughout Canada follow a strict oral tradition, increasing literacy is becoming more and more important in First Nations communities right across the country. Schools in every community are stepping up to ensure Aboriginal children are reading and writing to their fullest potential; and literacy organizations are enforcing schools and children with educational materials.

Ningwakwe Learning Press is one of these vital literacy resources. NLP’s primary mandate is to “develop, publish and distribute learning materials that contribute to a holistic approach to achieving adult Native literacy learning outcomes in Ontario,” the organization does so based on a hallowed cultural base through successful contemporary business methods. Established in 1996, Ningwakwe has published a wide array of educational materials, including novels, workbooks, CD-ROMs, teacher’s guides, and historical references, among many others.

With a solid reputation for distributing resources to Native communities across Ontario and the rest of Canada, Ningwakwe can proudly and adequately call itself the “most unique and culture-based resource centre for the purchase of Native learning materials.” By responding to the holistic needs and traits of Canada’s First Nations communities, it “contributes to community development and personal empowerment, recognizing the contemporary realities” of the communities it serves.

But boosting literacy through the production of such valuable resources is not Ningwakwe’s only strong selling point. With access to stellar printing and publishing equipment, the organization also carries out a number of professional practices. From graphics work to publishing annual reports, and from brochures to posters and catalogues, Ningwakwe runs the gamut of printing expertise.

Ningwakwe is a true innovator in that sense. By running independently, it has carved out a niche in the relatively new field of Aboriginal educational publishing. NLP stays true to a set vision and principles, and “is guided by the “Principle of Seven Generations”, which states that every word spoken today and every action undertaken today impacts on seven generations.” NLP’s principles statement continues: “As an organization committed to the reclamation of Aboriginal culture and traditions, NLP also abides by the Seven Grandfather teachings of humility, wisdom, truth, honesty, bravery, love and respect. Within this context, NLP is focused on developing, publishing, marketing and distributing learning materials and curriculum that meet the needs of adult Native learners in a holistic, culturally relevant way, consistent with literacy and basic skills guidelines.”

By adhering so strictly to culture and the needs of the people, Ningwakwe is a beacon in the diverse field of education and literacy. And by having the tools to keep the flames of learning going, the organization can further increase its role not only in that field, but also bolster Aboriginal presence in printing and publishing right across Canada.