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The Rita Joe Scholarship Award Fund


Business No: 870389368RR0001

The Rita Joe Scholarship Award Fund

A Scholarship Fund to Support Mi’kmaw Students Pursuing an Education

About the Rita Joe Scholarship Fund

Rita Joe (née Rita Bernard), was born and spent her childhood on a Mi'kmaw Reserve at We’koqma’q First Nation on Cape Breton Island. She lived with foster families after her mother's death when she was just 5 years old.

Orphaned when she was 10, Rita Joe left the island at the age of 12 to go to the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. She later returned to Cape Breton to live on the Eskasoni First Nation Reserve, where she and her husband raised 10 children, including 2 adopted sons.

Rita Joe recalled being told constantly, at the Residential School, "You're no good.” She began writing to challenge such negative messages, which she encountered again as an adult, in the books her own children were reading.

In the prologue to her memoir, Rita Joe states, "My greatest wish is that there will be more writing from my people, and that our children will read it. I have said again and again that our history would be different if it had been expressed by us." Rita Joe's first collection of poetry, titled The Poems of Rita Joe, was published in 1978.

Over the years Rita Joe has received many accolades and honours. She was a member of both the Order of Canada and the Queen's Privy Council for Canada. She received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award, and was awarded a number of honorary doctorates. Rita Joe is often referred to as the "poet laureate" of the Mi'kmaw people.

This fund was established by Rita Joe’s family to generate scholarships, bursaries and awards for Mi'kmaw students in memory of Rita Joe, a brilliant and much beloved Mi'kmaw woman from Waycobah, Nova Scotia who was passionate about writing poetry and children's books particularly as they related to Mi'kmaw language and culture in Nova Scotia and Canada.

Eligibility Criteria

The scholarship is to provide recognition for exemplary achievements in the life of the individual or a youth group who consistently and regularly contribute to the community well being. The recognition may be honours or monetary as determined by the Adjudication Committee.

Selection Criteria

The broad scope of the scholarship elevates the seven sacred teachings of the Mi'kmaw culture, language, traditional values, academic achievements, community involvement and personal wellness/wellbeing. The end result for the person receiving these scholarships is to recognize and appreciate that this is a gift of personal value and remembered in years ahead.

Award Value & Application Process

Typically one award will be granted from this Fund on an annual basis. However, awards may be made on a more or less frequent basis as the Donor Advisor(s) recommend and as income levels and the Foundation permit.