Principal turned publisher in B.C. hopes to get more Indigenous women authors on the shelves

A high school principal in northwestern British Columbia who has been inspiring students is now an author and publisher.

Leona Prince is a school principal in Nechako Lakes district in the central part of B.C.

“We come from an oral tradition culture. A lot of it remains within the culture and I think in general a lot of people in society don’t understand the complexity and the beauty and everything that’s involved within our culture”, said Prince speaking about the richness storytelling in within Indigenous peoples across Canada.

In 2018, Prince won an Indspire Award for her dedication and contribution as an educator.

Prince said that school isn’t just about learning, but also growing.

“One thing we can do in education is increase that sense of self, that sense of connectedness not only to other people but to themselves,” she said.

(Leona Prince reads from her book. Photo: Lee Wilson/APTN)

To keep that sense of connectedness, Prince wanted to reach out beyond the classroom.

She and her sister started a new publishing company called Fireweed Canada.

Prince and her sister Gabrielle Astrophe, are both originally from the Lake Babine Nation located nearly 3 hours west of Prince George in Burns Lake.

Astrophe shared some of the challenges they faced starting the company in search of funding.

“Aboriginal women were the least likely in Canada to get approved for a business loan. They were just spotlighting it when me and Leona went in for our business loan. It kinda put fire under them…” said Gabrielle.

(From the left, Gabrielle Astrophe, Leona Prince, and illustrator Carla Joseph. Photo: Lee Wilson/APTN)

The illustrations are from Carla Joseph, a talented artist from Prince George.

Prince and Joseph met when Leona was an educator at Nusdeh Yoh Elementary School.

Her art helps tell the beautiful tale of a young girl growing up in the world and her culture.

“I have known Leona for years, we became great friends. She really loves my art style, I felt it was a perfect match for the book.”

Both sisters noted the fact that nearly all of the people involved in the project were women.

Astrophe said “because our company is 100 per cent Aboriginal owned, operated and we’re female,” she said. “That is something I’m passionate about. Motivating and inspiring other women.”

“It’s interesting that is women who have led this project and who are leading our company because we do come from a matriarchal society” added Prince.

Both women were focused on getting the first book released. There could be potential for their company giving voice to other Indigenous voices in the future.

“What we hope to show people that you can have success as an Indigenous woman and support each other in that success. That’s a very important message” said Prince.

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