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Janie Leask

Photo of Janie Leask
Gyetm Wilgoosk, Tsimshian name 1948
Biography

Janie Leask has devoted her personal and professional life to creating honest and respectful connections among diverse people. She is a bridge between communities. The characteristics that permeate her career include: leading complex organizations, creating opportunities for diverse communities to engage in meaningful conversation  and mentoring young people.

Raised by a Haida/Tsimshian father and Irish/German mother in Metlakatla and Anchorage, Leask initiated her 15-year career with the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1974. During this time, she grew her understanding of public policy and the political system with the encouragement of a supportive mentor. She was selected and served as the President/CEO of AFN from 1982-1989.

These were tumultuous years for the Alaska Native community as they built organizations to implement the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act, participated in drafting the federal land management policies of Alaska in ANILCA, and fought for state laws governing access to subsistence resources for rural residents.

Under Leask’s leadership, and in a largely male-dominated environment, AFN began to formally listen to young people and engage in dialogue with many diverse communities of interest, while continuing legislative efforts in Juneau and Washington, DC.

During the AFN years she often felt limited by her own her personal self-doubts based on her lack of a college degree and her mixed heritage. Over time, she conquered her concern about lack of a formal education as she saw the results of her drive to “get something done.” Her self-doubt about not being “Native enough” was resolved through her continued work with Alaska Native people and capped off when Leask and her son were formally adopted into the Eagle Clan of the Tsimshian Tribe – the clan of her father, the late Wally Leask. At this ceremony she was given her Tsimshian name of “Gyetm Wilgoosk” meaning “person of wisdom.”

After AFN Leask turned her professional attention to the private sector for 15 years and served as the Vice President of Community Development at the National Bank of Alaska as well as the Manager of Community Relations for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

Her community involvement included serving on the boards of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, Commonwealth North and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce; from which she received the Chairman’s Award for her work in organizing trips to rural villages to foster understanding between urban and rural peoples. Later, she and former Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom co-chaired Commonwealth North’s “Urban Rural Unity Study”.

Janie’s work on urban-rural issues earned her several recognitions including the Alaska Governor’s Award, the Alaska Village Initiative’s Chief’s Knife Award, and Shareholder of the Year from Cook Inlet Region, Inc. In 2000 she was named a YWCA Woman of Achievement. In 2006 she was ATHENA Recipient and in 2001 she was identified as one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Alaskans.

In 2006 Janie returned to work within the Native community as the President/CEO of First Alaskans Institute, where for four years she focused on intergenerational leadership development and public policy issues impacting Alaska Native peoples and communities.

In the past decade she has invested much energy nurturing friendships among women, where common experiences with balancing family, work and service to the community are shared and valued. She finds great strength in a community of capable women who trust each other. Universally, Leask believes every person has a gift to contribute. Her advice to young people is: find your gift; nurture it and use it. Network as much as possible and recognize and act upon your obligation to give back to the community.

Janie is proud to be the mother of David Moore, a son who has become a wonderful and sensitive man.

She is married to Don Reed and together they are making their new home in Homer. In her recreational time, Janie is a talented ice hockey player, who demonstrates finesse and fierceness on the ice. She is a great team player.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/vlpcW7Si3mo

Notes

Janie Leask has devoted her personal and professional life to creating honest and respectful connections among diverse peoples. She is a bridge between communities. The characteristics that permeate her career include: leading complex organizations, creating opportunities for diverse communities to engage in meaningful conversation and mentoring young people.

Raised by a Haida/Tsimshian father and Irish/German mother in Metlakatla and Anchorage, Leask initiated her 15-year career with the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1974. During this time, she grew her understanding of public policy and the political system with the encouragement of a supportive mentor. She was selected and served as the President/CEO of AFN from 1982-1989.

These were tumultuous years for the Alaska Native community as they built organizations to implement the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act, participated in drafting the federal land management policies of Alaska in ANILCA and fought for state laws governing access to subsistence resources for rural residents.

Under Leask’s leadership, and in a largely male-dominated environment, AFN began to formally listen to young people and engage in dialogue with many diverse communities of interest while continuing legislative efforts in Juneau and Washington, DC.

During the AFN years she often felt limited by her own her personal self-doubts based on her lack of a college degree and her mixed heritage. Over time she conquered her concern about lack of a formal education as she saw the results of her drive to “get something done.”

Her self-doubt about not being “Native enough” was resolved through her continued work with Alaska Native people, and was capped off when Janie and her son were formally adopted into the Eagle Clan of the Tsimshian Tribe – the clan of her father, the late Wally Leask. At this ceremony she was given her Tsimshian name of “Gyetm Wilgoosk” meaning “person of wisdom.”

After AFN Leask turned her professional attention to the private sector for 15 years and served as the Vice President of Community Development at the National Bank of Alaska as well as the Manager of Community Relations for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

Her community involvement included serving on the boards of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, Commonwealth North and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce; from which she received the Chairman’s Award for her work in organizing trips to rural villages to foster understanding between urban and rural peoples. Later, she and former Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom co-chaired Commonwealth North’s “Urban Rural Unity Study”.

Leask’s work on urban-rural issues earned her several recognitions including the Alaska Governor’s Award, the Alaska Village Initiative’s Chief’s Knife Award, and Shareholder of the Year from Cook Inlet Region, Inc. In 2000 she was named a YWCA Woman of Achievement. In 2006 she was ATHENA Recipient, and in 2001 she was identified as one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Alaskans.

In 2006 Leask returned to work within the Native community as the President/CEO of First Alaskans Institute, where for four years she focused on intergenerational leadership development and public policy issues impacting Alaska Native peoples and communities.

In the past decade she has invested much energy nurturing friendships among women, where common experiences with balancing family, work and service to the community are shared and valued. She finds great strength in a community of capable women who trust each other.

Universally, Leask believes every person has a gift to contribute. Her advice to young people is: find your gift; nurture it and use it. Network as much as possible and recognize and act upon your obligation to give back to the community.

Leask is proud to be the mother of David Moore, a son who has become a wonderful and sensitive man.

She is married to Don Reed and together they are making their new home in Homer. In her recreational time, Leask is a talented ice hockey player who demonstrates finesse and fierceness on the ice. She is a great team player.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/vlpcW7Si3mo