Lisa Tallio will become the second Nuxalkmc in less than three years to receive an award from the British Columbia Achievement Foundation. In 2015, Nuxalk artist Alvin Mack was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the same foundation.
Tallio, who has just returned to her community after 20 years, was nominated by her former colleagues at the Minerva Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to support women and girls in leadership.
Tallio is among 25 others who will receive the 2018 BC Community Achievement Award at a formal presentation ceremony at Government House in Victoria on April 25, 2018.
“The dedication and generosity of British Columbians like these make our communities great places to live,” said Premier John Horgan. “Thanks to the 2018 recipients for helping build a better British Columbia for us all.”
Tallio is both Nuxalk and Heiltsuk, and was born and raised in Bella Coola. She left the community for Vancouver in 1997 following the birth of her first child.
“I was young and I was a single mom,” she recalled. “My parents had decided to relocate to Vancouver and I felt it was best for me to be close to my family.”
Tallio decided to return to school and graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Education. However, she admits it wasn’t easy.
“It was tough,” she remembers. “I was a single parent trying to complete my education, while at the same time really wanting to give my kids the best life possible.”
After graduation she took a summer internship at the Minerva Foundation, planning to return to school in the fall. Little did she know it would turn into a decade-long career in which she would end up shaping programs and policies for years to come.
Tallio began by creating cross-cultural training programs and initiatives in partnerships with other organizations, but this quickly began to expand as her vision and leadership developed.
“I feel really blessed,” Tallio said. “My mission is really to support others in creating and pursuing their goals, and at Minerva I was able to make this a reality.”
Tallio believes in supporting opportunities for Indigenous women, and under her direction Minvera’s Indigenous Leadership Initiatives began to transform into more comprehensive programs and offerings.
Most notable is the “Combining Our Strength” initiative, which is now a flagship program of Minerva. And through this program grew two more: Indigenous Roots and the Community Leadership Program.
“The Indigenous Roots program was particularly important to me,” Tallio said. “I was prepared to stand up for it at any cost.”
Indigenous Roots, now in its second year, is a groundbreaking outdoor leadership program for urban Indigenous girls. Aimed at girls aged 13 – 19 from the Lower Mainland, the program takes place over a year and is intended to increase their confidence through culturally-relevant leadership development and experiential outdoor learning. It culminates with a 21-day outdoor expedition on Vancouver Island.
As Canada enters a new age of Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous people, programs like those Tallio have developed are at the forefront of change.
“I believe reconciliation is different for every person,” Tallio said. “My commitment to reconciliation is developing our people: through culture, education, spirituality and getting back to the land.”
Tallio said she had previously thought she wouldn’t return to her home community until she was near retirement, but her desire to serve her people has always been strong. An opportunity as the Program Manager for Healthy Beginnings came up, and Tallio said her decision was made.
“I had been succession planning at Minerva for a number of years as I knew I would eventually want to move on,” she said. “I feel really grateful for the amount of leadership training I received through Minerva, and it was time for a new opportunity.”
In addition to her new position, Tallio is also in the midst of completing her Master’s of Art in Human Security and Peacebuilding from Royal Roads University.
“I have always been interested in human security and the role in plays in our community,” she explained. “It has been a lot of work but it will be worth it!”