First put in place in Manitoba, this was a system of “cattle on loan.” The government would loan a cow to a band, and they would care for it and raise a heifer, and be able to gain ownership of one or the other, and return the other animal to officials. In this way, bands had more autonomy, as previously, animals distributed by Indian Affairs were not considered the property of the band. As such, they could not be sold or butchered without permission.
There was confusion about what this system really meant, both for Aboriginal people and officials. It was presented as a means to give Aboriginal people more control over their economic well-being, but animals still could not be slaughtered or sold without the permission of the Indian agent, so little changed with the implementation of this system. The Birtle System was a continuation of the paternalistic and interfering policies of the Department of Indian Affairs.
Rural or Urban
Indigenous bands required permission to butcher or sell their cattle - "on loan" from the DIA.