In loving memory ~
Mel Bevan was born on the Kitselas Indian Reserve in 1941, at a time when being "off-reserve without a licence from the Indian Agent" was still illegal. A survivor of Indian Day school, Mel rose to prominence as a nationally recognized expert in First Nations governance. Most recently, Prime Minister Trudeau acknowledged Mel's lifelong efforts in a personal letter as "instrumental in the journey towards Reconciliation, the embodiment of mutual understanding, and the advancement of Indigenous rights." One of the last true Hereditary Chiefs and native speaker of Sm'algya̱x, the language of the Tsimshian people, Mel was raised and trained from birth to assume a leadership role with the Kitselas First Nation. Mel first served as Chief Councillor for Kitselas in 1969, hosting meetings in his kitchen. From his kitchen table, he helped rebuild Kitselas from less than 40 Members to over 700 Members today. His knowledge of First Nations culture, governance, and practical management was legendary, grounded in decades of experience as the Band Manager for the Kitselas, Telegraph Creek, and Kispiox First Nations.
A lifelong teacher, as well as a learner, his personal library has thousands of books, all of which he had read. In 2021, Mel published Silent Voices: Rule by Policy on Canada's Indian Reserves, a book capturing his lifetime of experiences in First Nations governance. His book serves as a guide for those wanting to achieve more for their First Nations community. The family would like to thank the many people who shared their knowledge, insights, and wisdom with Mel over many decades and who in turn have been kind enough to note how much he taught them.
Mel's lifetime of accomplishments included key roles in co-creating Muks-Kum-Ol Housing Society for Indigenous housing; starting Canada's First Nations Radio (CFNR) and school for Indigenous broadcasters; acting as close advisor to Phil Fontaine, the former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations; helping establish two legal libraries and service centres in Northwest B.C.; serving as president of the Kermode Friendship Society (Terrace); co-leading the development of the national First Nations Fiscal Management Act; assisting with a review of land management policy through Canada's former Department of Indian Affairs; and participating as an Elder in Residence with the University of Northern British Columbia. The list goes on and on.
In the days leading up to his passing, Mel remained instrumental in the completion of Treaty negotiations for the Kitselas First Nation—the culmination of 30 years of hard work, which he led from start to finish. The Kitselas Treaty returns land, money, authority, and responsibility for the future to the Kitselas People and the end of the Indian Act for Kitselas. Of all of his accomplishments, Mel was the proudest of his family. Mel is survived by his two children Stan Bevan (Roberta) and Susan Bevan (David); grandchildren Eric, Jesse, Cheyenne, Ayla, Zoe, and Brianna; and a growing number of great-grandchildren.
Mel is deeply missed, and we are forever grateful for his deep knowledge and love of the Kitselas People, history, and culture. He leaves behind a true legacy empowering future Kitselas generations to build and control their own destiny on their own homelands.
There will be a memorial at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 16, at the Kitsumkalum Community Hall, Terrace, B.C and a funeral at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, October 17, at the Kitselas Community Hall, Terrace, B.C. A feast will follow the funeral at 5 p.m.