Former N.W.T. MLA Eliza Lawrence remembered as a 'mother to everyone and anyone'

Eliza Lawrence, a former N.W.T. MLA and a founder of the N.W.T. Native Women’s Association, died Sunday in Grande Prairie, Alta.

Served 1983-1987 as MLA for Tu Nedhé

Eliza Lawrence, a former N.W.T. MLA and a founder of the N.W.T. Native Women's Association, died Sunday in Grande Prairie, Alta. She was 80 years old. 

Her daughter Flory Enzenauer, who describes her as a "mother to everyone and anyone," says she fought a long, hard battle with cancer.

Eliza Lawrence in 1984. Lawrence served as MLA for Tu Nedhé from 1983 to 1987. She died Sunday in Grande Prairie, Alta. (NWT Archives G-1995-001: 3089)

"I've been told that you die as you live, and she fought right up until the very last minute, and it was amazing and incredible and humbling," she said.

Lawrence was elected to the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly in 1983 representing Tu Nedhé (now Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh) and served one term.

"As the current MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, I know that there are people who still talk about the good things Eliza did as the representative of the people of Tu Nedhé. She was a true friend to many," said Tom Beaulieu in a release issued Tuesday by the legislative assembly.

Nurse, educator, language speaker

Lawrence was born in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., the third eldest in a family of 17 children. She worked as a nurse in Fort Resolution, Edmonton and Yellowknife, and later as a nutritional educator. A fluent speaker of Chipewyan, she became manager of professional services with the GNWT's Language Bureau.

She was one of the founders of the N.W.T. Native Women's Association.

Enzenauer remembers being brought along to her mother's meetings with Cece McCauley, Bertha Allen and Nellie Cournoyea and being put to work for the organization.

"They were the leaders and they forged through and made things happen right before my very eyes," she said.

Eliza and Harry Lawrence perform with the Métis Reelers at the 1990 Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife. (NWT Archives G-1995-001: 6420)

Lawrence also was up for adventures. A fellow MLA taking a new boat home from Edmonton by way of the Mackenzie River once asked if she wanted to join the group going on the trip.

"She said, 'I'm going on the Mackenzie River,'" Enzenauer said. "We asked 'Mom, when are you going?' 'Tomorrow.'

"She said they made bannock all the way down the Mackenzie River and laughed and shared stories into the middle of the night and it was one adventure that my mother remembered fondly."

Enzenauer's parents also danced with the Métis Reelers group. She says her father asked her older sister and her daughter to jig at a viewing Sunday evening.

"And they played the Red River Jig at the funeral home — I'm sure that's a first for them — and they jigged," Enzenauer said.

The family is holding a wake Friday night in Fort Resolution, followed by a celebration of life on Saturday.

with files from Loren McGinnis