Distribution of Metis Scrip in Association with Manitoba Act - Land Dispossession


Excerpts from "The Forgotten People" in the "relevant resources" section below detail the alienation of Metis people from their land through the Manitoba Act and processes of scrip certificate distribution. In 1886 the Metis of Manitoba petitioned the government, stating that their land patents and scrip had been stolen. Some Metis reported that their scrip had been stolen when land speculators forged powers of attorney (by bringing in someone to impersonate the Metis scrip owner) at the land office. The government officials at the land office were fully aware that this occurred and supported the theft of land by land speculators by forging powers of attorney. This constitutes government fraud.----Some primary sources, such as interviews with Metis women Agnes Amyotte Fisher and Celina Amyotte Poitras, as well as with Metis man Gilbert Rose, confirm that their Metis family received scrip certificates and land. However, other Metis interview participants, such as Pauline Anderson, Billie (Marie) Robison and Norma Welsh, as well as Metis man Joe Terranso, disclose that their families never received land or payment for their scrip certificates. Metis man Joe Vandale reports that his Metis family had to purchase their land (which implies that their land rights were not recognized by the government). Metis man Pierre Vandale reported that the government did no sufficiently inform Metis people of the significance or value of scrip certificates (this is also implied in the interview with Emily Norris Roehl). Metis man Frank Auger testifies that some First Nations people felt confined by treaty regulations, and thus took scrip instead, which they later regretted because the land that had been set aside for them for hunting was, in actuality, too small. Metis historian Harry Daniels reported that in Alberta in 1935, "I have found that the destitute, the most destitute people amongst the Metis today, are the direct descendants of the Indians who left the treaty in favour of scrip. They were misled in thinking that they were being taken out of bondage, they were misled in giving up their treaty.”


D.N. Sprague argues that the petition accurately describes how the Metis were treated by scrip commissions. He indicates that a very small portion of money scrip reached the Metis claimants and much was pocketed by assignees and attorneys.

Unlike the Aboriginal extinguishment to land title, which left non-Metis Aboriginal peoples with a protected land base, the Metis were not protected from land speculators in times of destitution. Aside from the forging and impersonation of Metis individuals, many Metis also sold their land scrip out of desperation. As well, information regarding the meaning of land scrip certificates was not readily provided by the government, and the land that was granted was often difficult to locate. This left the Metis in a severely disadvantaged position, as they did not understand the value of their land scrip certificates. The government was aware that land speculation was occurring and that land scrip certificates were being sold at a fraction of the price, yet did not enact legislation that would have protected the Metis from land speculators. As well, the government did not provide financial support to Metis that would have prevented poverty and aided them in the transition from a buffalo economy to an agricultural economy, despite the fact that government encouragement of settlement and a lack of legislated hunting protections allowed new settlers to destroy the previously plentiful buffalo population. The lack of a land base increased the difficulty of transition to an agricultural economy, and as a result, many Metis resorted to illegally squatting on road allowances to survive. A primary source interview with Metis man Joe Vandale (in the "Related Resources" section on this page) indicates that some land-dispossessed Metis in Saskatchewan were permitted to buy homesteads, but their subjection to the same process required of non-Indigenous people is indicative of a further dishonouring of their land rights as Indigenous peoples.
Sub Event
Scrip fraud and speculation