RAVEN - Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs

Staff & Board of Directors

Susan Smitten, Executive Director

Susan Smitten is the executive director of RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values & Environmental Needs) a non-profit charitable organization based in Victoria, BC that provides financial resources to assist Aboriginal Nations within Canada in lawfully forcing industrial development to be reconciled with their traditional ways of life, and in a manner that addresses global warming or other ecological sustainability challenges.  Since 2009, Susan created and has managed the only non-for-profit corporate charity in Canada with a mission to raise legal defence funds to assist First Nations who enforce their rights and title to protect their traditional territories and the environment.  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 is also an award-winning filmmaker and writer whose past projects communicate the connection between environmental issues and First Nations’ stewardship of the land.  For RAVEN, Susan directed the acclaimed Blue Gold: The Tsilhqot’in Fight for Teztan Biny, giving voice to the Tsilhqot’in peoples unanimous rejection of Taseko Mines Limited’s ‘Prosperity’ open pit gold-copper mining project.  She co-directed Wild Horses, Unconquered People, about the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation’s monumental rights and title legal challenge to save their culture and land.  A Carleton University journalism graduate, Susan spent 15 years as a broadcast journalist before embarking on a freelance career as a documentary and series director/writer and producer. Her film FASD: Finding Hope for Knowledge Network has been distributed to several countries including Japan and Australia.   Susan is also the author of seven books of ghost lore for Lone Pine Publishing.

Laurie MacKenzie, Development Director

Laurie has proudly served as Development Director for RAVEN for three years. Development work has a special appeal to Laurie; she loves making a difference in the non-profit industry for causes that are close to her heart. She has found the profession of fundraising a truly inspiring one. Having the ability to connect generous philanthropists with organizations that are doing amazing work in the community is a constant source of motivation for Laurie.

Working with RAVEN combines two areas which Laurie feels passionately about defending; environmental justice and First Nation reconciliation. Living on the west coast affords Laurie the opportunity to live surrounded by the natural beauty of what she works to defend. Laurie believes we have an obligation to learn from the original occupants of the land, questioning our modern day dependency on resource extraction. Laurie believes we have a responsibility to leave the land in its natural state for future generations.

Laurie keeps busy outside of RAVEN with volunteer projects and her vegetable garden.. She is also the co-owner of Eat it! Catering and Event Planning, a business and passion she shares with her husband. Life is at its best for Laurie when she is with her family, exploring this great, big, wonderful world.

Ana Simeon, Fundraising Campaigns Director

Ana was delighted to join the RAVEN team in September 2016. Ana is passionate about protecting the land and achieving justice for the Indigenous Peoples who are the land’s ancestral guardians. Before joining RAVEN, Ana campaigned with Sierra Club BC to stop the Site C dam project, one of Canada’s most shameful violations of Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

Ana has a background in journalism and communications. During the 1991-1995 war in her birth country, Croatia, she worked as a journalist with a wire news service and was involved in civil rights advocacy. Experiencing the war and its aftermath motivated her to seek for processes that promote understanding and reconciliation.

Ana has worked for a number of years for the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal as legal translator and reviser, and most recently for Sierra Club of BC as Peace Valley campaigner. Ana is also a mediator in private practice and a member of Mediate BC Civil Roster. As a passionate birder Ana is thrilled to be one of the RAVENs!

Leah Ritch, Operations Manager

Leah came to RAVEN in 2014 after a year of travel following her studies at the University of Victoria.

Through her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Anthropology, Leah worked as a constituency assistant to the agricultural critic, Lana Popham. Here she was responsible for community casework, event organizing, fundraising, accounting, writing the ‘Inside Saanich South’ blog, newsletters and research. Her time working for such a deeply respected community leader and outspoken critic of the province’s agricultural and food practices was a deeply rewarding and challenging opportunity.

She is of Scottish (Orcadian), and mixed Irish, Swedish and French ancestry, a history and people she feels a deep responsibility in learning.

Leah is honoured to work alongside such a supportive generous team of people, staff, board and donors, organizing to protect RAVEN’s bioregion. She believes strongly we have a powerful opportunity to collectively mobilize and support the Indigenous Peoples and knowledge keepers of this land and their precedent setting legal challenges – peoples whose rights remain some of the most powerful environmental protections against ongoing colonial assaults and destructive development we have left.

In her spare time she finds much fulfillment cooking, gardening, camping, swimming in the ocean, and participating in a wide range of decolonization efforts.

Andrea Palframan, Director of Engagement and Communication

Andrea Palframan is RAVEN’s Director of Engagement and Communication. She is dedicated to make media that brings the strength of data together with the power of storytelling.

She holds a Masters in Intercultural & International Communication. Her research focus— how indigenous communities are responding to, resisting, and adapting to climate change—forms the underpinning of her understanding of environmental justice and human rights issues.

In her spare time she is a graphic designer and communications consultant on Salt Spring Island, and is a contributor to Rabble, West Coast Native News, the Watershed Sentinel and the Vancouver Observer.

Maia Wikler, Digital Communications Coordinator

Maia grew up in Philadelphia, where the impacts of pollution affected her life directly and spurred her advocacy for climate justice at an early age. Maia seeks to connect dynamic and diverse audiences on issues of climate justice and human rights through research, film, writing and community organizing. She was recently recognized with the CC Faces of Innovation Award for her work identifying the challenges of climate change as a youth delegate with SustainUS at UN Climate Talks. Maia is a published writer, her most recent work appears in Teen Vogue. She currently lives on the unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Tsleil-Waututh territories and recently graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Master’s degree in Anthropology; her research focused on forced displacement impacts from mega resource development projects.

Josie Bannerman, Grant Writer

Josie loves writing grants and feels privileged to be part of the RAVEN team, doing her part to help raise legal defence funds for Indigenous Nations who fight through the courts for their land and culture.

She likes working to deadlines, feels more at home writing than talking, and draws on her past experience as librarian and market researcher to get those grant applications out the door.

In her spare time, she particularly enjoys walking along the seashore and working in the garden, where pruning grapevines and trimming hedges are her favorite chores. You can get a lot of thinking done while trimming a hedge, she often tells passersby who comment on the enormity of the job. From time to time she also writes for the James Bay Beacon Community newspaper, and for a number of years sat on their board.

Kathryn Juricic, Development Coordinator

Kathryn is a settler-ally born and raised on Lekwungen Territories in Victoria, B.C. A traveler of the west coast and advocate for resilient communities, Kathryn has long been passionate about Indigenous justice and its relationship to how we organize socially and pursue reconciliation from the ground up. These interests have landed Kathryn in a broad spectrum of former positions across Canada, from studying culture and anthropological archives on Haida Gwaii to working in the trenches of Parliament for Elizabeth May.

Most recently, Kathryn worked with Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group, to reimagine practices of community building from a non-profit perspective. Her work there included organizing The Gift of Good Food access program and the community music festival, FernFest.

Kathryn’s work with RAVEN allows her to bring her political and organizing experience to the vitally important work of decolonization, which entails a reconnection with Canada’s Indigenous communities and the landscapes they have stewarded for millennia.

In her spare time, Kathryn volunteers for nature-based youth programming and helps facilitate environmental education for youth in Victoria. When she’s not in an office, you can usually find her revelling in some natural wonder, whether it be a nearby celestial body or the unfurling of a summer fern. Kathryn’s fascination with the gift of the natural world means she’s most at home in the rainforest, swimming in B.C.’s waters or marvelling at the growth in her garden pots.

Karissa Chandrakate, Social Media Manager

Karissa joined the RAVEN team in July 2019, after completing her postgraduate studies in Environmental Visual Communication, a joint program between the  Fleming College and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Life Science from McMaster University. She is a first generation immigrant and POC, born on the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago and moved to Toronto at the age of 10.  She currently resides in Coast Salish territory and grateful for the opportunity to use her skills on the team.  She is most passionate about using digital communications and the power of visual storytelling to amplify voices and to connect people to the Earth and to each other. 

Christopher Roy, Digital Marketing and Site Management

Christopher manages digital strategy, planning, RAVEN’s website and the various digital services that support our campaigns, online fundraising and community engagement. He is a social venture entrepreneur who focuses his work on using digital strategy, marketing and advertising for businesses and non-profits to grow value and impact. Christopher is the Founder and Director of Marketing at Marketworks and is a board member of the Carving on the Edge Festival which hosts an annual gathering of West coast and Indigenous wood carvers in Tofino, BC each year.

RAVEN Board of Directors

Jeff Nicholls, President

Jeff Nicholls is a member of the Raven Clan of the Tsimshian Nation. He is currently completing his law degree at the University of Victoria, having previously graduated with a B.A. (Hons.) in Political Science and Indigenous Studies. Jeff is very passionate about asserting and supporting Indigenous legal orders, having worked with the Indigenous Law Research Unit to articulate Tsimshian law. For Jeff, Indigenous law is inextricably linked to the land and waters of his ancestral homeland. Developing a deep connection with his territory is a life-long pursuit. Jeff is an active volunteer. In addition to his work with RAVEN, Jeff is an active volunteer with the Victoria Native Friendship Center and The Indigenous Law Students Association.

Ronald J. Lameman, Vice-President

Ronald J. Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Treaty No. 6 Territory, Alberta, Canada is the Director of Justice & Legal Affairs of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation located 9 miles southeast of the town of Lac La Biche in east central Alberta, Canada. The Beaver Lake Cree Nation is one of the Treaty No. 6 Nations who entered into Treaty No. 6 in 1876 and Ron Lameman has been a lifetime proponent of the Treaty focusing on upholding and enforcing the Rights of the Indigenous Nations of Treaty No. 6 in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada.

Ron has been the Executive Director of the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations and has spent over 30 years working diligently for Treaty Rights, Land and Natural Resource rights, environmental protection, traditional subsistence rights, cultural rights, children’s rights, health and Self-determination for Indigenous Peoples in Canada and around the world. He was a delegate to the second UN Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 1981 at UN European Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and attended the founding session of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982, also in Geneva.

Ron has actively participated in a wide range of UN fora and international gatherings since that time, including the First Global Consultation on the Right to Food, Food Security and Food Sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples in Solola, Guatemala in 2002. He worked with other Indigenous representatives to bring about the “United Nations Study on Treaties, Agreements and Other Constructive Arrangements between States and Indigenous Peoples” in 1989, and has continued to be active in Canada and internationally to ensure the implementation of its recommendations for international oversight of Treaties between Indigenous Peoples and states as Nation to Nation legally binding agreements.

Ron was also active in each phase of the development of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and has also attended a majority of the sessions for the development of the OAS “American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”. He is currently a Board member and Board officer of the International Indian Treaty Council since 2000 although his involvement with Treaty Council spans over 3 decades.

Clara Bradley, Secretary

Clara double-majored in Political Science and Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria. Her key research interests lie at the intersection of these disciplines with a particular focus on Canadian Environmental and Indigenous policy topics. She is especially interested in how the Canadian political and legal framework can better create meaningful relations with First Nations communities and support of their way of life.

Clara is passionate about community development and volunteer service. She is a past participant of the Katimavik program, a volunteer program that brought together youth from across the country to foster responsible citizenship and community building. Her six months volunteering in Quebec focussed on promoting eco-citizenship and active living in a small-town community. At the University of Victoria Clara is active in the Rotaract Club, a youth division of Rotary International. Through Rotaract she works hands-on with non-profits to fundraise for and support charities in the local and international community. In this capacity she has served as Director of Literacy Projects and Co-President of an active and engaged group of students and young professionals.

Clifford Atleo, Director

Cliff is a Tsimshian (Kitselas/Kitsumkalum) and Nuu-chah-nulth (Ahousaht) scholar who researches Indigenous governance, community development and political economy. His doctoral research focuses on the political economy of the Ahousaht on the west coast of Vancouver Island, in both historical and contemporary contexts. He is interested in how Indigenous communities navigate/adopt/resist mainstream capitalism while working to sustain their unique cultural identities, practices and worldviews. Cliff is particularly interested in how Indigenous communities and leaders continue to assert agency within the confines of settler colonial law, politics and economics.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) and Master of Arts (Indigenous Governance) degrees at the University of Victoria and his PhD is in Political Science via the University of Alberta. He has taught courses in Indigenous Studies and Environmental Studies (UVic) and Interdisciplinary Studies at Royal Roads University. He is currently a tenure-track instructor in Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. His postdoctoral research will look at Indigenous community development policy and the revival of traditional economic practices as well as the exploration of new practices rooted in traditional Indigenous principles and values.

Susan Gee, Director

Susan is a senior communications, issues management and development professional with over 20 years experience working in and for public sector and not for profit organizations. She holds a double major in Fine Arts, is an accredited public relations professional (APR) and is currently completing an Masters of Business Administration. Susan has a deep love for the natural world and is honoured to serve on the RAVEN board in support of First Nations communities across Canada.

Past Presidents

Jessica Van Der Veen, Past President

Jessica Van der Veen worked in Vancouver for 25 years as an actor, director and acting teacher in theatre, film and television. She was Director of Part-Time Studies at Gastown Actors’ Studio. In 2006 she received a Master of Public Administration from UVic, working for the Office of the Auditor General and The Premier’s Summit on Literacy.

She founded LANDS! (Let’s Agree Not to Dispose of Schools!), working with citizens in jurisdictions across BC and successfully halting the selloff of school lands and urban green space. Stewarding public assets led to Van der Veen’s candidacy in provincial elections in both 2009 and 2013. Van der Veen sat on the Arts Advisory Council to the CRD and was a member of the Dancing Backwards project, developing arts-based curriculum on democratic processes and the history of Canadian women in politics for the K-12 system.

Van der Veen teaches at the Canadian College of Performing Arts and worked as a consultant to Actra/Union of BC Performers. She is co-owner of CASTVictoria (Coastal Acting Services Team). She Chairs the Board of RAVEN, raising funds for First Nations to legally defend their Constitutional rights to environmental protection in Canada.

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