Joane was born in Red Deer, Alberta, on August 22, 1942.
Her father, Joseph Trefly Cardinal, worked as a game warden for the Alberta Game Branch and was from the Kainai (or Blood Tribe) Nation. Her mother, Frances Magarete Rach, was of Métis decent and worked as a nurse. The couple had eight children: Douglas, Ron, Ken, Joane, Carole, Robert, Bryan, and David. Her brother, Douglas Cardinal, is one of Canada’s most influential contemporary Indigenous architects.
After moving around Red Deer a couple of times, the family settled on an acreage, that was also a mink farm, just north of the city. Joseph even moved a small house onto the property for his parents to live in.
Joane’s new home would influence her future paintings. The lilies on the lake would be referenced in her paintings along with many star paintings. She would love to lie on the grass at night and watch the star constellations. The family also owned the Cardinal Motel, that was located next to the Bluebird Motel, on 3421-Gaetz Ave from 1954 to 1960.