Efforts underway to find Michel Band descendants to establish Michel Callihoo Nation

Kim Beaudin Callihoo. Photo from Facebook

By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter 

(ANNews) – The Michel Callihoo Nation Society (MCNS) is in search of people who are descended from members of Michel Band #472 as it seeks to obtain official federal government recognition for a new band — Michel Callihoo Nation.

Chief Michel Callihoo signed onto Treaty 6 in 1878, resulting in the establishment of Michel Band two years after the Treaty was initially signed. In 1880, the nation received 40 square miles of reserve land on the Sturgeon River near St. Albert. 

Michel was disbanded in 1958 when former prime minister John Deifenbaker enfranchised the entire band’s membership as a means of forced assimilation, except for four women and one child, who lost their band membership but maintained their Treaty status. 

This was the first and only time in Canadian history that an entire band was eliminated through forced enfranchisement, which was removed from the Indian Act in 1961

Without their reserve lands, former Michel Band members were dispersed across Canada. 

Spearheading the MCNS is Kim Beaudin, who also serves as the national vice-chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. 

“The enfranchisement of Michel Band #472 destroyed families – removing us from our land, language and identity, Beaudin explained in a March 25 news release. “Our mission is to find our relations, come together, and work with Canada to create a new Nation, restoring our inherent Treaty rights. Our families deserve a Nation to call home.” 

Beaudin told Alberta Native News in an interview that a crucial requirement for Michel descendants obtaining federal recognition for a new nation is to have them united under a single organization, which is why the MCNS came to be.

Prior to the MCNS bringing them under a single umbrella in late 2022, there were five separate organizations advocating for Michel descendants — the Friends of Michel Society, Descendants of Michel First Nation Association, Unity Group, Michel Band United for Justice, and Michel Corporation. 

Under Indian Act section 17(1), the federal government can create new First Nations bands and compile a list of its members for registration.

Beaudin estimates there are “hundreds of people out there scattered across Canada” who are eligible to register under the Michel band list, but doesn’t know the specific number. 

“It really comes down to your Treaty rights. We want to ensure that you know about them, that your voice is heard, and make contact with you as well,” he said. 

But there’s also an important family reunification element to the initiative. 

“We became lost. When you lose contact with your relations — your cousins, your aunts, your uncles — that’s the sad part,” Beaudin added. 

“We have family out there we’ve never met. You could run into somebody and find out that they’re your cousin when you’re on the road or at a powwow, for example.”

He called this a “very emotional” topic for Michel descendants. 

“We couldn’t be there to protect our people and our relatives through all the 65 years plus that had happened,” Beaudin said. 

He noted that the enfranchisement of Michel Band members came just years before the Sixties Scoop, in which Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and placed in foster care with settler families — a legacy which continues in the present.

Those who believe they have Michel ancestry and are registered under the Indian Act, or in the process of registering under the act, are invited to fill out a statement of intent to get on the MCNS’s band list. 


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