Leah Joy Miller

Leah was born to Arvid Miller and Bernice (Davids). “I’m a young elder,” says Leah. She is the oldest child of the second family. Leah recalls how her mother says she has two families, the first includes her oldest 4 children and the second family began 5 years later with the birth of Leah and grew with Leah’s other 5 sisters and brothers.

Leah was born in Shawano and raised on the reservation.  Leah’s family moved to Milwaukee when her dad had an opportunity for work there. Leah was in the 6th grade during the time, and continued school there for 3 years. Leah’s father became ill and the family moved back to the reservation. Leah graduated from Bowler School.

After graduating from Bowler, it was evident that there wasn’t much for Leah to do on the reservation. Jobs were scarce and times were rough. Leah decided to move to Milwaukee to look for work. During this time Leah wasn’t really interested in going to college or thinking about education. Her thought and goals were more family oriented. She wanted to get married and raise a family. Leah found that one of the only options available to her job-wise was to become a beautician. After completing beautician school Leah found work at a salon and quit after only 3 weeks. “I didn’t like it.”

Leah married Marvin Heath in a small ceremony at the Milwaukee Courthouse. They returned to the reservation where they had a reception in the basement of Grosskopf’s. From this marriage came Leah’s 3 daughters Elena, Melissa, Kristina; and her only son, Kanaysa.

Leah went back to school at age 34. She attended the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. Leah received a Bachelors Degree in Public Administration and Policy Analysis.

A second marriage took place for Leah when she married George Johnson. This was Leah’s chance to have a “big wedding”. Leah and George married at the Mohican Family Center, they had wanted to marry in the park however the weather was pretty iffy. Leah’s daughters all stood up for her. This marriage was brief yet “we’re still very good friends,” says Leah of George.

Leah became the first female chair for the Stockbridge- Munsee Tribe. Leah had nothing but positive things to say of her experiences with tribal politics. “It was a good experience-I’m glad I did it.” Leah can say that looking back there are some things she wishes she would have done differently, and it’s not something that she would be interested in today, “there is too much traveling.” Leah says she would like to encourage every tribal member to take a stab at playing a role in tribal government.

Leah enjoys reading, sewing, shopping, and most of all spending time with her family. She is the grandmother of 10 and is expecting another grandchild soon. Leah is proud of the fact that her children are good kids and that she has never had any major problems raising any of them.

Leah doesn’t attend church but says that she has a spiritual relationship with the creator whom she prays to often. “I believe there is a higher power.”

Some of Leah’s role models include her father, who was involved in tribal politics for over 26 years, which is why Leah believes she has shown interest in this area. Her mother taught her the value of giving people the benefit of the doubt, “there are always 2 sides to every story and it’s important to listen to both sides before making a decision about someone.” Leah’s Aunt Dot has also had a positive impact on Leah. She was instrumental in encouraging Leah to return to school. “She shows a lot of leadership qualities, especially for women,” says Leah.

Leah has worked several different positions within the tribe and she is currently the Executive Director. “Our tribe is doing very well right now. Life here is good, I hope people remember that and take advantage of the good life here.”