Chief Mi'sel Joe visits

Jan 9th, 2019

Laura Woodford

Chief Mi'sel Joe visits

As part of our response to the Call to Action on Education of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, the School of Social Work is committed to attracting and retaining Aboriginal applicants to our bachelor of social work (BSW) programs. For many applicants of First Nations, Inuit, Métis, or blended ancestry, institutional processes and cultural and racial differences exist, which often present barriers to learning. In response, the school has made changes to the application process and curriculum in order to include information and experiences about Aboriginal knowledge and practices as well as the impact of colonization.

Co-creating the Visiting Aboriginal Elders Pilot Project with the Aboriginal Resource Office is a significant step towards (i) furthering the decolonization and Indigenization of the BSW curriculum and pedagogy, and (ii) transforming the university environment and the learning framework of Aboriginal education in the academy. By introducing the entire university community to the rich traditions and knowledge in Aboriginal communities, the presence of Elders on campus could create a dynamic difference in the education of all students.

The initiative will see four Elders from Newfoundland and Labrador visiting Memorial’s St. John’s Campus for two days per month each. Half the time is set aside for social work students, faculty and staff, and the other half is set aside for the Aboriginal Resource Office.

The goal of this project is to provide outcome information that will help establish an ongoing Elders in Residence program for Memorial University.

The first visiting Elder is Saqamaw (Chief) Mi’sel Joe, who will be in the Aboriginal Resource Office student lounge on Jan. 9 for tea and storytelling and at the School of Social Work on Jan. 10 to meet with members of the School and for a Celebration Feast.

Born in Miawpukek on June 4, 1947 into a strong Mi’kmaq family, Mi'sel has been educated in all the Mi’kmaq ways and traditions.

In 1982, Mi’sel became Traditional Saqamaw (Chief) and the Newfoundland District Chief for the Mi’kmaq Grand Council. He is also the spiritual leader of his people. He has gained recognition provincially, nationally and internationally, particularly in the area of spiritual healing.

Saqamaw Mi’sel Joe 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 May 2004, Mi’sel was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by Memorial University of Newfoundland & Labrador, in recognition of his contribution to the economic, social and political development of the Mi’kmaq people of Newfoundland & Labrador.

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

On January 24, 2018 Saqamaw Mi’sel Joe was awarded the Order of Canada. This prestigious recognition recognizes his outstanding leadership in developing and enhancing the well-being and financial vitality of Miawpukek First Nation.

Social work students, staff & faculty are invited to join us for a Celebration Feast with our first visiting Elder, Saqamaw Mi'sel Joe!