Joe Michel was born on Dec 3, 1929 on the Adams Lake Reserve. From an early age he was nurtured by elders on the reserve to become a future leader. At the age of ten he was sent to to the Kamloops Residential School. He became the first high school graduate at the school and one of the first aboriginals in B.C. to go on to achieve a teaching degree.
Joe Michel taught elementary school at several locations before settling into a job as First Nations counsellor within the Kamloops area. He worked in that capacity for over 15 years. Within this period Joe was active on several education boards and committees, namely, the National Indian Brotherhood, and as a part of the founding committee for the first Native teacher education program (N.I.T.E.P.) at U.B.C.
Although his work in public education is noteworthy, it is perhaps his role in education after retirement that is most cherished. Joe Michel is a prominent elder and continued source of wisdom and support for Chief Atahm School, the first, First Nation immersion language nest and elementary school in B.C. Joe Michel is known for his committment to the development of Secwepemc education that is, "firmly planted in both worlds". In 2007 he was honoured with an National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the field of education.