By Gerald Neufeld
As a youth Joe would walk for miles with his Dad to the family trapline at Lewis Lake. Joe recently described how his Dad would wake him and his brother Winston early on a winter morning to walk the distance back to Pauingassi on snowshoes. It was a long day of walking. Joe recalled his legs were short when he was young, and keeping up with Dad was difficult. Joe laughed as he described the experience of being tired and just wanting more sleep, as any youth does. He recently told me he how appreciative he was of his Dad for pushing him to develop a work ethic.
In other conversations, Joe became nostalgic when talking about cultural practices of times past. He would reminisce about picking wild rice and how his Dad processed it, going to the family trapline, and hunting with his Dad. Joe was particularly proud of his ability to hunt big game (he certainly developed this skill from his father who was an exceptional hunter!). With a big smile on his face Joe would announce emphatically that he was the BEST hunter and in support of his proclamation, and pull out a newspaper clip in which Joe himself was the headline in support of his announcement!
Joe consistently spoke fondly of his children and enjoyed spending time with them.
Joe enjoyed talking about earlier days where he’d travel to Pikangikum to visit relatives. He would travel with his Grandmother Ehshinminchimowiye and cousin Shortie. They’d stay with relatives. He describes this as being his Grandmother’s way of introducing him to a world larger than Pauingassi.
In conversation, Joe listened with intent. It would be a rare conversation in which Joe wouldn’t engage. He had a unique perspective in his understandings. When Joe offered ideas or posed questions, they were well thought out and usually came from a different vantage point than expected. He enjoyed discussing, debating, and learning, and he presented a well-articulated presence.
Joe was a proud member of the Board of Directors of Pimachiowin Aki.
Joe had leadership experience in various areas of responsibility including past experience as Chief of Pauingassi and more recently the Manager of Land Use Planning for Pauingassi. In his role of Land Use Planner, Joe participated in active negotiations with the UNESCO World Heritage Site application, which originally included the Whitefeather Forest Area of North-west Ontario. Through these experiences, Joe understood how to deliver communication, negotiate, and develop work processes necessary to interface Pauingassi with Government and other organizations. His work experience served Joe well on the Board of Directors for Pimachiowin Aki and permitted him to actively participate during meetings.
Joe will be sadly missed.