Staff & Volunteers
Susan SmittenExecutive Director
Susan Smitten is RAVEN's Executive Director and sole full-time staff person. Susan is honoured to work for RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values & Environmental Needs) to assist First Nations struggling to save their traditional ways of life. She is committed to being a living example for her daughter, and is grateful for the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for the values that RAVEN represents.
Susan brings a combination of skills from her previous 25-year career in journalism, film-making and writing plus event planning and public relations. Her skills as producer, director and writer were called into play in creating the RAVEN-produced film Blue Gold: The Tsilhqot’in Fight for Teztan Biny. The award-winning documentary was presented at the CEAA environmental review into the proposed Prosperity Mine and it was instrumental in giving voice to the Tsilhqot’in peoples unanimous rejection of the gold-copper mine. The film continues to appear at various film festivals throughout North America.
She has been the president of several non-profit boards, most recently serving a term for the Victoria Independent Film Professionals Association (VIFPA). She also volunteers for various arts organizations, including the Canadian College of Performing Arts (CCPA). When not trying to save a lake or stop the tar sands expansion, Susan enjoys spending time with her family, singing with the Brat Pack and growing her garden.
PRESENTATION: Telling It Like It Is; Or How to Represent People's Perspectives and Stay Out of the Way, February 12, 2013, for University of Victoria ES 481 Advanced Topics in Ethnoecology
Laurie MacKenzieDevelopment Director
Laurie proudly joins the RAVEN team as the new development assistant. Development work held a special appeal to Laurie as she made plans to move beyond her 15-year career in the hospitality industry. She has found that fundraising was a natural transition. Having the ability to connect generous donors with organizations that are doing amazing work in the community is a constant source of inspiration for Laurie.
Working with RAVEN combines two areas which Laurie feels passionately about defending; First Nations title preservation and environmental protection. She believes we should be leaving the land in its natural glory to pass on to future generations.
Laurie keeps busy outside of RAVEN with other development contracts and as the President of her strata council. She is also co-owner of Eat it! Catering and Event Planning, a business and a passion she shares with her husband. Life is at its best when Laurie is with her family, exploring this great, big, beautiful world.
Michelle ZakrisonSocial Media Coordinator
Michelle is very excited to join the RAVEN team as the Social Media Coordinator! She fell in love with Twitter just last year & sees social media an extremely effective means of mobilizing people around great causes!
Currently completing her LL.M. (Master of Laws) at the University of Victoria, her thesis focuses on the perpetuating problem of poor drinking water on Aboriginal reserves in Canada working with the Halalt First Nation. She also obtained her J.D. (Law degree) at the University of Ottawa and her B.E.S. (Bachelor of Environmental Studies and Political Science) at the University of Waterloo.
In her spare time she runs First Nations ally workshops & aspires to article at an Aboriginal and environmental law firm!
Jessy Anna RuckerVolunteer Grant Researcher
Jessy began to volunteer in the office at RAVEN in January 2011 after she saw the documentary Blue Gold: The Tsilhqot’in Fight for Teztan Biny about Fish Lake. She has worked as a volunteer with several other groups, such as Together Against Poverty Society and City Farm. At the University of Victoria Jessy studied Spanish, Journalism and Environmental Studies. She also took the organic farming course at Camosun College. Jessy is from Phoenix, AZ and has lived in Victoria with her daughter since 1997.
Max RittsVolunteer Outreach Coordinator
Max Ritts recently obtained his MA in Geography from the University of Toronto, where he wrote his Master's Thesis on the political ecology of the Tar Sands. He has written freelance for various publications, and began his PhD in Geography in the fall of 2010 at UBC. Max has been a steady contributor to RAVEN’s blog and has been assisting with grant writing and finding supporters.