Saqamaw Misel Joe

Misel Joe was born in Miawpukek on June 4, 1947.  He was born into a strong Mi’kmaq family, both his grandfather and uncle have held the office of hereditary Saqamaw.  Misel 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 Misel’s great, great uncle.

At the age of 16 Misel was given the alternative to either leave the reserve to journey to other parts of Canada in search of employment or to travel to a neighboring community and attend secondary school. Misel 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 labor foreman.

Misel 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, he became Traditional Saqamaw and the Newfoundland District Chief for the Mi’kmaq Grand Council.

In 1988, the community of Miawpukek decided to create a two-chief system whereby there would be an Administrative Chief elected every two years in addition to the Traditional role as Saqamaw.  Misel is currently serving his 14th consecutive two-year term as Administrative Chief.  He has been very successful in performing two of the above roles during his term of office.

Misel 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 this province and country. In this process he has developed a positive profile through numerous interviews in print and electronic media, and publicized speaking engagements. 

Misel resides in Miawpukek with his wife, Colletta. He has a daughter Leona; granddaughter Ansalewit (Angel); and two great grand-children, Ethan and Amaya.

He is a recognized author and has published the following literary works:

  • Muinjij Becomes a Man (Breakwater Books)
  • An Aboriginal Chief’s Journey (Flanker Press).
  • Poetry – (in conjunction with MUN) in the book entitled Backyard of Heaven.
  • My Indian (Breakwater Books)

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

In 2012, the Queen’s Jubilee medal was awarded to Chief Misel. 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 individual contribution to making Canada better for our communities and collectively by helping to create a smarter, more caring nation.

On January 24, 2018 in a ceremony in Ottawa, Chief Misel Joe was awarded 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 Chief Misel for his outstanding leadership in developing and enhancing the well-being and financial vitality of Miawpukek First Nation.

Since 2019 Misel has been appointed as Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the 5 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group.