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Joanne Elizabeth MacDonald (nee Rice) was born in 1938 in Cambridge (Galt) Ontario. She received a B.A. Honours in Anthropology in 1961 from the University of Toronto and M.A. in Anthropology from Carleton University in 1980.
Mrs. MacDonald held various positions within the Federal Government including: Cataloguer, Canadian Ethnology Service, Canadian Museum of Civilization (formerly National Museum of Man) where she documented Canadian Indigenous material culture (1964-1968); Claims Analyst, Indian and Northern Affairs (1981-1986); Policy Analyst, Community Negotiations Branch, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (1986-1988). Mrs. MacDonald also conducted various contract for various organizations including: the Assembly of First Nations; The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples; and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (1993-1996).