Ernie Callihoo stands on what used to be a wagon trail and looks off into the distance.
He’s alone in these parts – literally.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes. We used to have a wagon trail, and now we’ve got gravel roads,” he said.
“It’s a lot of change. Now, there is a lot of agriculture. Trees, grain. Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of changes in my lifetime.”
Callihoo, 82, is the last hold out of the band that started giving up its land more than 100 years ago.
(At 82, Ernie Callihoo, standing by his 1944 tractor, still works the farm. Photo: Chris Stewart/APTN)
In the 1950s, the band was disbanded by the federal government.
But Callihoo is the one holdout.
Callighoo has lived on the land his entire life and was born just up the road from where he lives now.
At one point the Michel First Nation was 100 square kilometres.
But since the early 1900s, the Michel band was giving up land to secure farming tools.
Members disbursed across Alberta and the country.
In 1958, the Michel band was enfranchised meaning members gave up their treaty status, and the benefits that were owed to them.
The 50 or so families that were enfranchised were given quarter sections of land.
Over the years, most sold and left leaving Callihoo as the lone member on the land.
Now companies are coming to him to buy his land because it’s rich with gravel deposits.
“I have a lot of buyers who would like to buy the land. Still today. We’ve got the gravel on the property here,” he said.
“They asked me if they gave me a good price if I’d sell, and I said ‘no way.’”
(Callihoo with his daughter Maureen on his farm. Photo: Chris Stewart/APTN)
There are efforts to have the Michel First Nation reinstated.
Callihoo said he hopes it happens sooner rather than later.
“It would mean a lot to me,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see it. Live long enough to see it. I miss a lot of people. There are no families or anyone around to visit anymore.
“All the people are gone.”
(Callihoo points down a wagon trail on his farm. He says there have been a lot of changes. Photo: Chris Stewart/APTN)
Despite being in his 80s, Callihoo still works the farm.
He makes time to teach young people about ceremony and culture.
“Now that I’m retired, I like to do more of these things. I’m still busy on the farm here,” he said. “I can never catch up on my work here.
“I need another lifetime, really..laughs.”