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They’re thugs–but not slackers. The Native youth lurking around Toronto’s core have a lot to prove, and do so in this cheeky, 32-page colour zine, which is a part-fanzine, part-sketchbook venture spearheaded by Stacia Loft, an organizer with the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. Here, teens, tweens and young adults (aged 13 to 29) take turns shedding the spotlight on each other–the NDN in the title stands for “Natives Defining Native.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are angst-ridden with attitude. In fact, the opposite seems to be true: They are endearing, inviting and even helpful–on page four find a how-to crack the rap industry code, there’s the raw prose of Chelsea Dowan-Keesickquayash (“Do I wanna go home and get beat or/should I pick up the drugs just talk to those thugs”), an interview with upcoming rap star Wabs Whitebird (whose new album is called Chief of the Concrete City), and on page 13, the lot of them step backstage with the stars at the 9th annual Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, which took place in November 2007. Equipped with their Dictaphones, they interview Lorne Cardinal (from the hit TV show, Corner Gas), Phil Fontaine (National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations) and Digging Roots (a Barrie-based indie reggae, folk band who won best songwriter). In keeping with the giddy, star struck tone of the rag, Raven Kanatakta, the singer and guitarist of Digging Roots, sums up the motive of the zine when he connects it to his songs and the history of Native Canadians. “I find indigenous people are standing up,” he says. “We are speaking our truth, raising our voice and bringing all the roots that we have inside the earth and growing it up. There are fruits that come out of that, man! You know?” (Nadja Sayej)

zine, Youth at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, issue 2, $5,

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