Lisa Tssessaze is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), a Densuline people related to other Dene peoples as far south as New Mexico and as far North as Alaska. Her ancestral name is Deskelni, which means “keeper of the river”. Born in Fort McMurray, Lisa spent a lot of time on her family’s trapline and was raised in a very traditional Dene upbringing, which inspired her to be a voice for the land.
After completing high school, Lisa obtained her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Alberta. Since 2004 Lisa has been employed by the ACFN’s Dene Lands and Resource Management (DLRM) currently as the Director and prior to that she was the Environmental Coordinator for the department. The ACFN DLRM coordinates consultation on behalf of the Nation and because of the high rate of industrial development in ACFN’s traditional lands, the DLRM is a very busy and dynamic workplace. Lisa is very family oriented and despite her busy career, Lisa manages to devote countless hours to her children and extended family and emphasizes teaching her own children the traditional Dene values that were taught to her.
Lisa continues to listen to the advice, stories and recommendations of the Elders. The teachings of the Elders on the treaty are particularly important in her work with the DLRM. The Elders say ‘that the Treaty was an agreement to share the land, not to take the land away from us’. ‘We were promised we would continue to have the ability to live off the land as we have since the time of our ancestors’. Lisa stands by this principle in the work that she and her staff at the DLRM do to protect the lands and resources upon which ACFN depends.