Elizabeth Liske

Funding Arctic Strength: Elizabeth Liske Builds Capacity and Community

In her work Elizabeth Liske travels all over the world, but her heart and her efforts are concentrated in community. She has a lot on her plate, but she’s nourishing herself and her neighbours with all that she does. It was a long road to get where she is today but she has a lot to be proud of. Liske is a Yellowknives Dene First Nation member and she did a lot of admin work before becoming a mother to her two children. She was a stay at home mom for nearly five years before re-entering the workforce with a retail job at Reitmans. Two weeks into her new job she got a call from Deton’Cho Corporation, the economic development department of her nation inviting her to work in their human resources department. 

She worked there for a couple months before a job opened up at the Vital Abel boarding home, a home where people needing to come from other communities for medical treatments stay. Liske worked there for a year, helping them improve their system and learning from the Nunavut medical boarding home staff to see what worked for them. Some of the systems she helped implement are still in place to this day and through her work, she built relationships with the medical travel department in government. When she applied for a job to work there, she was hired on and worked there for a few years. 

Working in medical travel, Liske was able to support Indigenous patients and knew how to communicate with them effectively. She was able to help elders understand things and communicate in plain language so processes were less confusing. Her ability to relate and make people comfortable made her good at her job and it was something she enjoyed. Liske moved from that role into a less-fulfilling and not as challenging administrative role. 

From that position, she got to work with her First Nation running the health effects monitoring program relating to the remediation portion of an agreement they had with Canada in relation to a claim relating to the effects of arsenic from a mine. Liske helped with arranging for the testing of community members, making appointments and working with nurses who collected data like blood pressure and other vital signs. 

While working for her Nation, she also helped organize an Indigenous cultural gala which included a fashion show where Indigenous artists could showcase their work. Local elders who make mitts and vests have the opportunity to be recognized as designers and local designers whose work is often seen around town gets to be celebrated. With the pandemic, the initiative evolved into a photoshoot when gathering was not possible. Later, they partnered with Aboriginal Sport Circle and held an in-person show during the Summer Indigenous games. 

Motivating her to continue the work are the connections she gets to make with artists, the creativity, the opportunity to bring people together and get artistic about the stage design and to have the chance to collaborate with makeup artists. Bringing a production of this scale to life has a lot of moving parts and as a social person with a strong network, she’s been able to bring together Indigenous people to emcee and provide entertainment from music to jigging to create an Indigenous-led night celebrating Indigenous talent. All musicians, makeup artists, models, designers, florists, everyone involved in the event are Indigenous. The gala allows her Nation to share about who they are and for community members to learn more about who they are and be inspired. 

Her advice for Indigenous youth leaving their home communities to go to school is to find Indigenous community in their new school environment. Liske left Yellowknife to study in Fort Smith which still has a majority of Indigenous students but her sister moved South to go to school and has had a lot of loneliness being away. “As Indigenous people, we come from big families, lots of aunties and uncles and cousins. You almost don't really know what loneliness feels like until you’re plucked out of that,” she reflects. That’s why she recommends finding a strong support system and staying in touch with family in a supportive way. “Try to remember why you're there and then find a community of people that you could find that comfort and support in,” she summarizes.

"Try to remember why you're there and then find a community of people that you could find that comfort and support in"

To balance her mental health and wellness as the mom of older kids and as someone working a busy job with lots more travel, Liske takes more time for self care and listens to her body when it comes to rest. When coaching her employee, she encourages them to take good care but she doesn’t always follow her own advice even though that’s something she needs to be modeling as a leader. That’s something that she’s working on to avoid burnout. 

When it comes to inspiration, Liske looks to her community, family, Indigenous worldview and her teachings. She tries to do the right thing, to contribute and be of service. As the director of the Arctic Funders Collaborative, she works in the philanthropy sector. She was asked to apply for the job and got it. “When this opportunity came, I knew that it was an opportunity to be able to make new connections, expand my skill, and learn from the travels that I've been doing around the world, and then one day be able to bring that back to my community,” she reflects. 

These days, Liske continues to contribute to her community by sitting on Chief and council and by working as a doula. Working with pregnant women, Liske draws inspiration from the future generation as well. With everything she has on the go, she stays pretty busy and finds many ways to give back. 

In her work with the Arctic Funders Collaborative, Elizabeth Liske travels all across the globe, but her heart and her efforts are concentrated in community. While she has an awful lot on her plate, she’s nourishing herself and her neighbours with everything she does and the fruits of her labour are going to help future generations flourish. As a proud Yellowknives Dene woman, she’s giving back to her Nation with her talents, skills and strengths and learning more that she can share.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
    Northwest Territories
  • Date
    May 13, 2024
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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