Mi’sel Joe - Mi'kmaw Sagmaw

Mi’sel Joe

Mi'kmaw Sagmaw

Mi’sel Joe is the hereditary Saqamaw, Administrative Chief, and spiritual leader of Miawpukek First Nation.

Mi’sel Joe was born in Miawpukek on June 4, 1947. He was born into a strong Mi’kmaq family and Mi’sel Joe has been educated in all the Mi’kmaq ways and traditions. Morris Lewis, the first appointed Chief in Newfoundland by the Grand Chief in Mi’kmaq territory, was Mi’sel Joe’s great-great-uncle, and both his grandfather and uncle have held the office of hereditary Saqamaw.

At the age of sixteen, Mi’sel Joe was given the choice to either leave the reserve to journey to other parts of Canada in search of employment, or to travel to a neighbouring community and attend secondary school. Mi’sel Joe chose to leave the reserve and during his time away from the community he held several different positions such as farm hand, factory worker, railroad worker, construction worker, truck driver, heavy equipment operator, ranch hand, commercial fisherman, underground miner, and labour foreman.

Mi’sel Joe returned to Miawpukek in 1973. Since that time, he has been involved in First Nation politics, first as a Councilor and, after the death of his uncle Chief William Joe in 1982, as hereditary Saqamaw of Miawpukek and the Newfoundland District Chief for the Mi’kmaq Grand Council.

In 1988, the community of Miawpukek decided to create a dual-Chief system whereby there would be an Administrative Chief elected every two years, in addition to the traditional role as Saqamaw. Mi’sel Joe is currently serving his fourteenth consecutive two-year term as Administrative Chief. He has been very successful in performing these two roles during his term of office.

Mi’sel Joe is also the spiritual leader of his people. In this capacity he has gained recognition provincially, nationally, and internationally, particularly in the area of spiritual healing. He is committed to preserving the language, culture, and traditions of his people. He also plays a very public role in presenting a better understanding of the Mi’kmaq people of Miawpukek to residents of his province and country. In this process he has developed a positive profile through numerous interviews in print and electronic media and publicized speaking engagements.

Mi’sel Joe resides in Miawpukek with his wife, Colletta. He has a daughter, Leona; granddaughter, Ansalewit (Angel); and two great-grandchildren, Ethan and Amaya.

He is a recognized author of numerous literary works, including My Indian (Breakwater Books), Muinjij Becomes a Man (Breakwater Brooks), An Aboriginal Chief’s Journey (Flanker Press), and Backyard of Heaven (poetry collection in conjunction with Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador). And most recently, the sequel to My Indian, Sulieway (2023).

In May 2004, Mi’sel Joe was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. The degree was awarded in recognition of Mi’sel Joe’s contribution to the economic, social, and political development of the Mi’kmaq people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 2012, Mi’sel Joe was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee medal. This medal marked the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952. The recipients of this medal are recognized for their individual contributions to making Canada better for our communities and by helping to create a smarter, more caring nation.

On January 24, 2018, in a ceremony in Ottawa, Mi’sel Joe was awarded membership in the Order of Canada. The Order of Canada's mandate is to recognize outstanding achievement, dedication to the community, and service to the nation. This prestigious recognition is given to Mi’sel Joe for his outstanding leadership in developing and enhancing the well-being and financial vitality of Miawpukek First Nation.

Since 2019 Mi’sel Joe has been appointed to Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the 5th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, responsible for the area of Newfoundland and Labrador.