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Joe, Rita
Person · March 15, 1932 - March 20, 2007

Rita Joe, daughter of Joseph (Josie) and Annie (Googoo) Bernard, was born in We’koqma’q (Whycocomagh) First Nation, on March 15, 1932. At the age of 12, she went to the Shubenacadie Residential School until she was 16. During that time, she was forbidden to speak her language and endured mental and physical abuse. Later, she met and married Frank Joe in Boston and eventually moved to Eskasoni where they raised 8 children and 2 adopted boys. In the 1970’s she completed her high school diploma and took a course in business education. During 1978 to 1999, she published her creative works based upon her experiences as an Indigenous person in Canada: Poems of Rita Joe (1978); Song of Eskasoni (1988); Lnu and Indians We’re Called (1991); Kelusultiek: Original Women’s Voices of Atlantic Canada (1994); Song of Rita Joe: Autobiography of a Mi’kmaq Poet (1996); The Mi’kmaq Anthology (1997) (co-edited with Lesley Choyce); and We are the Dreamers (1999). She also received numerous honorary doctorates and awards including the Atlantic Writing Competition (1975), Member of the Order of Canada (1989), Member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada (1992), and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (1997) which is now known as the Indspire Award. Rita Joe became known as the Poet Laureate Of The Mi’kmaq People. She passed away on March 20, 2007.