Michel Band Leadership Team Being Left Behind in Search for Unmarked Graves

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The goal of residential schooling was to separate children from their families, culture, and identity. Saskatchewan Archives Board, R-A2690.
The goal of residential schooling was to separate children from their families, culture, and identity. Saskatchewan Archives Board, R-A2690.

OTTAWA – National News – As the search for unmarked graves begins at the former site of the St. Albert Youville residential school, descendants of the Michel Indian Band worry they will not have closure on the fate of their ancestors. The Michel Indian Band 472 was enfranchised in 1958 and left behind history, and community records.

The problem with this “lack of recognition under the Indian Act means that descendants of the band have no claims that they can bring forward, including calling on the federal government to support their search for the bodies of ancestors abused by the residential school system”.

The Michel Indian Band’s elders and knowledge keepers must be considered in the reconciliation process.

Dan Godbersen, shared his family tragedy. “My Kohkom (grandmother) and all her 8 siblings went to this Institution. One sister passed at the age of 15 with no cause of death given to the family. She was lost to that place. My grandmother spoke very little about her time there except to say, I was very little and sick. “The nuns put me in a room by myself and left me for three days. At the end of the third day a nun came and checked on me to make sure I was still alive”. She couldn’t finish her story as it brought back all the regressed trauma, she was left broken. Again.”

Beverley Asmann states, “My mother spent her entire childhood at the Youville school and she never returned to the reserve. She lost her language and had very little education, never getting to know her family, grandparents or aunts or cousins. As a family, we have never had a place to call home. And now we have nowhere to bring our lost children back to finally rest. How can we begin to heal from the trauma and the damages done to us while the government continues to treat us like we are worth nothing. This is unacceptable and we deserve better.”

“Beginning in 1918, the Government of Canada systematically starved, and assimilated our peoples on our reserve.”

“Treaty descendants of the Michel Indian Band must be involved in this process, so that we can receive closure on the fate of so many of our ancestors” stated Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin. “Beginning in 1918, the Government of Canada systematically starved, and assimilated our peoples on our reserve. Many were taken to the Youville residential school, and all suffered abuse until the school’s closure in 1948. The residential schools policy led to the Sixties Scoop policies which continued to destroy our community.”

The Michel Indian Band has over 1200 treaty designated peoples who have all been impacted by the residential schools tragedy. CAP’s National Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin is a Michel descendant, and is working with community leaders to reinstate the Michel Indian Band under a new leadership team. Linda Buffalo, one of the members of the leadership team recounts the suffering her mother experienced at the Youville residential school. “My mother told me that a girl in bed next to her had a nose bleed and they went to get the nuns. The nuns came and wiped her face and yelled at them to get back into bed. The next morning the girl was dead. She bled to death and the nuns never came back to check on her.” Michel Descendants have suffered at the hands of the Youville residential school, and they deserve to be part of today’s process.

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is calling on the federal government to provide the current Michel Band Leadership Team with the necessary records so that they can re-unite lost family members. Up to this point, the federal government has refused to reinstate the Michel First Nation in Alberta Treaty Six territory as there are no provisions in the Indian Act to reinstate the band. As the band has not been reinstated, Michel descendants have no claim to reparations from past injustices. “Regardless of current status, our people deserve to be provided with the records the Government of Canada maintained on the Michel Indian Band. The government has refused to take responsibility several times in the past” added National Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin.