Joseph I. Keeper was born to Christina McLeod and Joseph B. Keeper on October, 1928 in Norway House. His father, Joseph B., attended the 1912 Olympics as a long distance runner where he placed 4th in the 10,000 meter race.

Joe began school at age 6 and later graduated from Portage Collegiate High School in 1946. After serving 14 months in the Korean war until 1957, Joe worked as a surveyor in northern Canada for Canadian Nickel, a subsidiary of Inco.

In 1959 Joe married Phyllis Beardy, an Anglican priest. In the 1950’s Joe saw change coming for his people. Shortly afterwards he began employment as a Community Development Worker in Aboriginal communities. ‘In 1960 the Grand Rapids Four Bay project was starting. Because a hydro dam was to be built, the native people had to be relocated. I worked at this for 3 1/2 years.’ In 1971 Joe began working on a federal level; grant processing was his area of expertise for 4 years. This proved a stepping stone for employment on the Northern Flood Committee. The N.F.A. was signed in 1977 and in 1990 a Proposed Basis of Settlement was signed.

Joe has been a major contributor to native community development and self government, helping to improve economic conditions for his people. Joseph I. Keeper was a founding member of the National Indian Council and in 1992 was appointed to the Order of Canada.


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Joseph I. Keeper
Cree, Norway House First Nation
Image size: 11 x 13 inches
Edition size: 125