Joe Michel

Education (2007)

It was a beloved matriarch elder who encouraged Joe to complete high school and continue onto post secondary education instead of continuing to work at his summer job at the local sawmill. It was a good thing he listened because Michel became one of the most outspoken advocates and leaders on Aboriginal education in the country.

As one of the first graduates of a residential school in the west, Michel got his degrees through summer school over many years enabling him to keep abreast of education developments of the time. Michel was able to spend time playing a major role later in life working at his lifelong passion to maintain the Secwepemc language, playing a major role in its revival.
He is a cultural savior and language activist who is retired from education but continues to educate. He mentors students and teachers throughout BC, contributes to Secwepemc language curriculum and is actively involved as an elected member of Band Council. He is busier now in retirement, as a mentor, statesman, elder and parent within his community, than he ever was.

Michel contends that Aboriginal control of education is important because the strength of Native people is in the language and traditional values. “We have to relearn how to learn,” he says. Incorporating western education with traditional values is the key, both feet firmly planted in two worlds. With this, Michel believes Aboriginal people will be the educators of their own history and leaders of their own destiny.