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Tribute to Senator Ron Michel

Honourable senators, I rise in tribute to Senator Ron Michel of the Prince Albert Grand Council, December 6, 1951, to Monday, January 25, 2021.

Senator Michel was born in 1951 in a log cabin on the Churchill River, what he called the lifeblood of the Peter Ballantyne Woodland Cree in northern Saskatchewan. His mother and father lived and passed on to their children a rich and spiritual traditional lifestyle of hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering. His father encouraged him to get an education, saying that it was the future of First Nations people, but his father refused to allow Ron to attend residential school.

Ron and his wife — my sister Nancy — were married in 1972, and both graduated as teachers from the University of Regina in 1981. Together they built their family, their careers and worked as educators on the reserve.

Ron realized that First Nations people needed advocacy and a voice and entered politics. He was elected a band councillor in 1983 — a position he served for two years. He ran for chief in 1985 and held that position for 20 years, with a hiatus of 2 years.

The Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation is comprised of seven distinct communities geographically separated by great distances. With his expertise and position as chief, he was able to negotiate new schools and health centres for many of the Peter Ballantyne communities and turned it into one of the most progressive First Nations in Saskatchewan.

He helped to establish the Prince Albert Grand Council, which is comprised of 12 First Nations Treaty 5 and Treaty 6 signatories in northern Saskatchewan. He was chief when Peter Ballantyne negotiated the Treaty Land Entitlement Act in 1993. This agreement was critical, as it would serve as the socioeconomic engine for Peter Ballantyne’s future, and remains the most important factor in their continuing success. Ron was chief when the Northern Lights Casino became a reality and built on the urban reserve of Peter Ballantyne in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Ron ran for the position of Grand Chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council in 1985. He served as Grand Chief from 2005 until he retired in 2017. As Grand Chief, he worked with the 12 First Nations to create more capital, work, services and programs. Thank you.

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