Joan Pauline Villa (1946 - 2019), beloved wife of Nicolas Villa, Jr. passed peacefully on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019. Nicolas and her son Greg Garner and friends were by her side when she passed at Sutter-Amador Hospital, Jackson,  CA. Born Joan Pauline Joseph on October 6, 1946 in San Jose, CA to Margaret Caroline Joseph and William Aca Joseph, she lived the last 32 years of her life on the Jackson Valley Indian reservation (historic tribal land) in Amador County.

When Joan left our world, our region’s Native Americans lost a loyal and fearless advocate. She was an experienced tribal strategist. She, Allogan Slagle and her husband Nicolas successfully documented to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), that the Ione Band of Miwok Indians was a "previously recognized tribe". On March 22, 1994, Ada Deer, Assistant Secretary reaffirmed the political status for the Ione Band of Miwok Indians and stated that the tribe will henceforth be included on the list of "Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible to Receive Services from the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs," last published on October 21, 1993. Joan served as CEO of Miwok Tribal Enterprise Corporation for 27 years. She was a steadfast advocate of protecting the burial sites of Native American people and helped write the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which was enacted into federal law November 16, 1990 and subsequently adopted by the tribe.

Joan moved effortlessly among senators and congressional members, and was a frequent visitor to Washington DC, advocating on behalf of her tribe and Native American rights. She attended the second inaugurations of President Bill Clinton by special invitation of the Clintons. She sought to share her expertise. She taught other Native Americans how to serve as advocates, including teaching them how to negotiate and network with people in positions of power.

Joan and Nicolas were married for 31 years. Their partnership in this life was one of loyalty, love and dedication. They were best friends and confidants. Together, they proudly provided for her two sons, Gregory (wife Anne-Marie) and Michael (wife Sabrina), and adored her seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Joan also left behind her devoted brother James Joseph, who will forever keep Joan in his heart. 

Joan’s compassion extended to four-legged creatures, as well. She believed in animal rescue and was a devoted animal lover. She never met a dog, horse, goat, cat, rabbit or bird that she did not adore. She left behind her pets who provided comfort and humor all of her days. She will be missed dearly by her fur kids who followed her everywhere. 

Joan will be remembered forever as a leader, an advocate, a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and sister. Her legacy will positively impact generations to come throughout the country, and we are grateful that her spirit lives on in each of us as we advocate for respect and justice for Native Americans.