Rita Joe

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Rita Joe
Born Rita Bernard
(1932-03-15)March 15, 1932
Whycocomagh, Nova Scotia
Died March 20, 2007(2007-03-20) (aged 75)
Sydney, Nova Scotia
Occupation Poetry
Nationality Canadian
Ethnicity Mi'kmaw
Genre Poetry
Notable awards National Aboriginal Achievement Award, 1987; Member of the Order of Canada, 1989; Queen's Privy Council for Canada, 1992; Poet Laureate of the Mi'kmaq people
Spouse Frank Joe
Children Eight children; adopted two boys

Rita Joe, PC CM (March 15, 1932 – March 20, 2007) was a Mi'kmaw poet and song writer, often referred to as the Poet Laureate of the Mi'kmaq people.


Born Rita Bernard in Whycocomagh, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, she was the daughter of Joseph and Annie Bernard. In 1942, she was orphaned.

In 1978, her first book, The Poems of Rita Joe was published. Over her lifetime she published six other books, including the autobiographical Song of Rita Joe,in which the poet outlined some of her experiences at the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School.

In 1989, Joe was made a Member of the Order of Canada; in 1992, she was called to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, and she is one of the few non-politicians ever appointed.

She married Frank Joe in 1954. They had eight children and adopted two boys. In the years before her death, Joe suffered from Parkinson's disease.


  • Poems of Rita Joe (1978)
  • Song of Eskasoni (1988)
  • Lnu And Indians We're Called (1991, ISBN 0-921556-22-5)
  • Kelusultiek (1995)
  • Song of Rita Joe: Autobiography of a Mi'kmaq Poet (1996, ISBN 0-8032-7594-3)
  • The Mi'kmaq Anthology (1997)
  • We are the dreamers: recent and early poetry (1999, ISBN 978-1-895415-46-9)



  • "Indians have in the past been portrayed as the bad guys, I write the positive image of my people, the Mi'kmaq."
  • "When I started the first time writing, I was trying to inspire all minorities with my work. To make others happy with my work is what I wanted to do."

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