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 Rita Joe

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Rita Joe

  • Birth 15 Mar 1932 Whycocomagh Reserve, Inverness County, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Death 21 Mar 2007 Sydney, Cape Breton County, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Burial Eskasoni, Cape Breton County, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Memorial ID 18651870

Poet, writer, human rights activist. She was considered the "Poet Laureate" of the Mi'kmaq (Micmac) nation and ambassador for aboriginal arts and culture throughout Canada and the United States. Dr. Rita Joe's poems gently presented the First Nations experience within Canada, and urged compassion and cooperation between peoples. Born Rita Bernard on Whycocomagh reserve in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, she was raised in foster homes after her parents died. Then she entered Shubenacadie Residential School where she learned English, the second language used in much of her poetry. She married Frank Joe in 1954 and they raised ten children at their home in Eskasoni First Nation in Cape Breton. In her thirties, Joe began writing poetry to counter the negative images of native peoples found in many of the books her children read. Her first book, "The Poems of Rita Joe", in 1978 was the first published book of Mi'kmaq poetry by a Mi'kmaq writer. One of her poems had a particular impact on many. "I Lost My Talk" demonstrated the pain of the Mi'kmaq language being beaten out of people at residential schools. An officer of the Order of Canada (1990) and one of the few non-politicians ever called to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Joe received honorary degrees from Mount Saint Vincent, Dalhousie, St. Thomas and Cape Breton Universities as well as a National Aboriginal Achievement Award (Arts and Culture). She was also featured in television and radio documentaries, and wrote articles for several aboriginal and non-native publications. She had published seven books, including five poetry anthologies and an autobiography, "The Song of Rita Joe". She passed away in Sydney, Nova Scotia at age 75 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. Joe continued to write despite the illness, and after her death, her daughters found revisions of her last poem "October Song" on her typewriter. The final copy reads: "On the day I am blue, I go again to the wood where the tree is swaying, arms touching you like a friend, and the sound of the wind so alone like I am; whispers here, whispers there, come and just be my friend."

Bio by: Milou


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Milou
  • Added: 27 Mar 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 18651870
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Rita Joe (15 Mar 1932–21 Mar 2007), Find A Grave Memorial no. 18651870, citing Holy Family Cemetery, Eskasoni, Cape Breton County, Nova Scotia, Canada ; Maintained by Find A Grave .