MARCH 20, 2007


Born March 15, 1932, and raised on the Whycocomagh Reserve, Nova Scotia, Rita attended Indian Residential School where she was forbidden to speak her Mi’kmaq language.  Her poetry challenged negative messages about Indigenous identity.  Her publications include:  Poems of Rita Joe (1978); Song of Eskasoni: More Poems of Rita Joe (1988) with her noted poem, I Lost My Talk; Lnu and Indians We’re Called (1991); Kelusultiek: Original Women’s Voices of Atlantic Canada (1994); and Song of Rita Joe: Autobiography of a Mi’kmaq Poet (1996).  A documentary, Song of Eskasoni, celebrated Mi’kmaq culture through her poetry.  In 2016, I Lost My Talk inspired a multimedia performance at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and the Rita Joe National Song Project.  Rita’s honors include: Atlantic Writing Competition (1975), Member of the Order of Canada (1989), Member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada (1992), and National Aboriginal Achievement Award (1997).  She died in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Source:  Michelle Felice, “Rita Joe,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 5/27/2007.  Retrieved 6/24/2019,
Photo:  Courtesy of Thaddeus Holownia.  
Photo:  Rita Joe holding the proclamation of her reception of the Order of Canada, 1989. 00-06-29992. Courtesy of Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

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