Joel, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. He obtained degrees in Psychology and Religious Studies from Naropa University. At Naropa, he was awarded the President's Leadership Scholarship and his senior project in the religious studies department focused on Cherokee history and religion. Joel attended Widener University School of Law, where he was a student attorney at the environmental law clinic and represented citizen groups pursuing lawsuits under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Administrative Procedures Act. He was also awarded a certificate of achievement by Joseph R. Biden.
After graduating from law school, Joel was Assistant Counsel with the Pennsylvania Governor's Office of General Counsel, where he represented the executive branch as a trial and appellate attorney.
Joel is currently an LLM Environmental Law candidate at the Vermont Law School. Immediately before joining NARF, Joel was Senior Legislative Officer with Cherokee Nation and director of the tribe's Washington, DC office.