Women of the Arctic Council: Interview with Liza Mack, Executive Director of Aleut International Association 6 March 2020Arctic peoplesAleut International Association In honor of International Women’s Day on 8 March, we spoke with some of the women who work with the Arctic Council to learn more about them, what it means to be a woman in their field and their advice for young women. Liza Mack is the Executive Director of Aleut International Association. We spoke with Liza about what it is like to represent an Indigenous people and speak up on an international scale, the challenges and opportunities that come with moving past traumas Indigenous people have experienced and the importance of always keeping in touch with your community. Can you tell us about yourself, your education and your current role? I am an Aleut and was born and raised in a small village at the end of the Alaska Peninsula called King Cove. I graduated with my PhD in Indigenous Studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks last year. Before that, I had been working on a lot of policy issues through my cultural anthropology program at Idaho State University. Currently, I serve as the Executive Director for Aleut International Association, which is one of the Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council. We represent the Aleut people that live in both Russia and the United States in the Arctic Council. What motivated you to pursue a career in Indigenous affairs? A lot of my motivation came from my upbringing and being involved in a lot of projects and initiatives happening at the community level in King Cove and throughout the Aleutians. I finished my associate’s degree right out of high school and then I went back to King Cove to help take care of my grandma. I then worked with the Agdaagux Tribe in King Cove where I served as their Economic Development Coordinator. I was involved with policy and looking into the intricacies of what helps sustain our community and help keep it alive. An opportunity arose for me to work on my degree in anthropology, which allowed me to go back to King Cove and conduct interviews, work on oral histories and other similar projects. I was able to document history and be involved in the conversations about what was keeping our community sustained. I was part of a grant that looked at testimony about people who participate in policy efforts at the state level. That was one of my first interactions with the policy world – understanding the system that we work in as community members and Indigenous people, and also how participation in policy leads to being able to sustain our community and preserve our culture. A lot of the things that I have been doing have always had a focus within the Aleut communities. What do you enjoy most about your work? My work is very multifaceted and fast paced, and I think that fits my personality and skill set. It also encourages me to keep learning and trying to be better at everything that I am doing. I have always enjoyed being in school, so the learning component of my job is something that I thrive on. I also really like the people that I work with, and I enjoy getting to know different people in different organizations and understanding their dynamics. I like being able to speak up for what is good for our communities in both the US and Russia.