Although the Manitoba Act was legislated with the purported intent to recognize Metis land rights, it is clear from the actual effect of ongoing amendments to the Manitoba Act, in addition to other bureaucratic delays, that the government prioritized the settling of newly arrived EuroCanadians to Metis people. Following the 1870 and 1885 resistances, many Metis people gave up hope of obtaining land and were forced to migrate to unsettled areas. After 1870, many Metis migrated west to the area now known as Saskatchewan. After 1885, many Metis migrated to unsettled road allowances and to more northern parts of the province of Saskatchewan. When living on road allowances, economic survival required Metis families to move frequently in search of work and to avoid eviction. It should be acknowledged that other barriers to education existed for Metis children, including not being recognized as Indigenous (and thus not qualifying for residential school education). In this case, however, government unwillingness to construct schools or transport children in remote communities, in addition to the transience required in order to make a living, resulted in Metis children not being able to obtain an education (see related entry on Metis economic activity post-1870 and post-1885). Several primary source interviews, as listed below in "relevant resources" cite transience and distance from schools as an obstacle to obtaining education. It should be noted that at least one interview participant, Metis man Ron Caponi, cited discrimination in the school environment as preventing him from being more "education conscious." Another Metis woman, Mary St. Pierre, describes the jurisdictional hurdles involved in getting an education as a Metis child, which eventually led to her being educated in a residential school: "When I was twelve year’s old they tried to put me in the school. My, my Godfather lived on the reserve. My Godfather put me in the residential school. I wasn’t there for two weeks and I was thrown out of the school. I went to school, to Crooked Lake. It’s in the big valley. There’s a big school standing there. This was a residential school. I only went to school for two weeks. That was all. And I didn’t like the school anyway because we never left home. We were always with our parents. So I was lonesome, I guess. Then when I got home my father kept on thinking about me going to school. So there’s a little town over here called Dubuque. So, he decided to send us to school. So then my youngest sister and I, we went to school but we were thrown out on the first day [that] we were in school. So we came home and told our dad ‘we can’t go to school there, the government won’t let us go to school there’. So then, he came back home and told my mother ‘yeah that’s right, the kids can’t go to school there because we have to pay taxes’. So that was it, I never did go to school again." Metis woman Helen Sinclair also described her attendance at a residential school because of being adopted by a First Nations family - there were some Metis children who attended residential schools for various reasons (please see related entry).
A road allowance is land that had been surveyed and set apart by the government for future roads and development - it was the margin between provincial land and Crown land. The state simultaneously denied Métis land rights and also would not allow them to purchase land. The decision to permit Métis families to move onto road allowances was one that further perpetuated their economic marginalization. Some Métis found and occupied abandoned shacks and rail cars as housing was not provided on road allowances. After 1885, the Métis were effectively legally ignored by all levels of government until the 1930s, when a surge of Métis political organization engaged in consciousness-raising and mobilization.
Metis were denied their land rights following the Red River Resistance and Riel Resistance. The land dispossession of many Metis resulted in their establishing residence on unoccupied road allowances on Crown land. Metis people disposessed of their homelands and unable to reside in road allowance communities were pushed to find shelter on elsewhere.
In addition to a lack of access to education and healthcare, being restricted to the road allowance with no access to farmland and limited work opportunities meant that families were often relegated to finding temporary, low-paying work. Racism and prejudice also factored into the struggle for many Métis to find long-term, well paying work; Métis were socially relegated to undesirable jobs due to hiring discrimination and an assumption that they were incapable/unreliable. As well, the search for such work resulted in a high level of transience and disrupted schooling for Métis children that were able to attend. Many Métis families experienced poverty, and this was particularly severe during the Great Depression when conditions worsened both economically and environmentally (the Dust Bowl).
- St. Onge, Nicole, Macdougall, Brenda, and Podruchny, Carolyn. Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012.
- Please see related entry titled "Metis Loss of Education Opportunities Due to Forced Transience and Lack of Government Funding."
In February 1987, the Nekaneet First Nation submitted a specific claim to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development seeking compensation under Treaty 4 for outstanding provisions of agricultural benefits, programs and services, annual payments to band members and damages for failure to provide a reserve at the time of the treaty's signing in 1874. On October 23, 1998, the federal government offered to accept Nekaneet's claim for negotiation of a settlement. According to the federal government, this was the first agricultural benefits claim Canada had ever accepted under Treaty 4
An additional settlement was reached between the Nekaneet band and the provincial government of Saskatchewan on September 23, 1992. The settlement concluded that the Nekaneet band has not received reserves of sufficient area to fulfill the requirements of Treaty 4, and that Canada has an unfulfilled land obligation to the band under Treaty 4.
Please See the Federal and Saskatchewan TLE Settlements attached below.
Metis communities in northern Saskatchewan (formerly North-west Territories) began appealing to the Crown in approximately 1886-87 to have their land claims recognized. Although the North-west Commission of 1885 would have surveyed a large number of Metis claims in the North-west Territories, there would have been a number of factors which would have prevented Metis who lived farther north from attending, such as distance. It was extremely difficult for families to leave their work for a number of days during the busy summer months. As well, many Metis were illiterate and did not speak English, and would have been unfamiliar with the complicated and unorganized bureaucratic process inherent to the policies of the Metis land claims Commissions. The process of applying for one’s claim was time-consuming as it required not only travelling to the Commission’s sitting, but travelling to the Dominion Land Office as well to mark one’s claim on a map. Sometimes scrip coupons were issued immediately, other times individuals had to wait for months for their claim to process. As well, if the land upon which the individual resided had not yet been surveyed, they could not use the land or money scrip to obtain title to their land. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- For the government, the purpose of distributing scrip was to extinguish Metis claims to land title, just as treaties did for non-Metis Aboriginal people. A distinct difference between the two, however, is that the Metis claims were dealt with individually, while Aboriginal title to land was collectively extinguished. Similar to the numbered Aboriginal treaties, Commissioners were appointed by orders in council to hold sittings at locations where Metis could come and fill out the requisite government applications. Although scrip had been issued for many decades, perhaps most notably in Manitoba following the Red River resistance in the 1870s, as well as in Saskatchewan in the 1880s and in conjunction with Treaty 8, the existence of prior commissions did not quell the fears of the Metis that their rights to occupation and land title would be recognized by the government. Ottawa’s intent to settle the west was demonstrated by their failure to follow through with their decade-long delay in distributing land in Manitoba following the issuance of land scrip in 1880. The Metis correctly assessed the situation by recognizing that the Crown was more preoccupied with the interests of the Settler population than the rights of the Metis people. In response, the Metis continually petitioned Ottawa regarding their concerns in the 1870s and 1880s, which are clearly documented by government records and correspondence from that time period. These concerns were ignored and resulted in growing political tension and the Riel resistance of 1885. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- As well, the decline of the buffalo in the 1880s as a result of enormously wasteful hunting by the Settler population required that the Metis transition to a new way of life. This wasteful consumption is starkly contrasted by the careful stewardship of the buffalo by the Metis, in which judicious hunting was exercised and all parts of the buffalo used. The fur trade was also in decline. Since the sharp dual decline of buffalo and the fur trade 1880s, requests had been made by the Metis for assistance in transitioning to a way of life based on a different economy. Aboriginal peoples of Northern Saskatchewan had also made requests to enter treaty due to destitution and sickness. The government ignored these requests until the time of the gold rush and the invasion of prospectors in Northern Saskatchewan in approximately 1906. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- On July 20, 1906, the Commissioner for the first half of Treaty 10 (McKenna) collected a total of 541 testimonies to land claim, of which 498 were allowed by the government. This amounted to $65, 040 in money scrip and 54, 480 acres in land scrip. Under the second Treaty 10 Commissioner (Borthwick), a total of 202 testimonies to land claim were made, of which 178 were allowed. The second half amounted to $14, 160 in money scrip and 28, 560 in land scrip. The scrip commissions were held in conjunction with the Treaty 10 commissions at Snake Plains, Lac la Ronge, Stanley Mission, Southend, Ile-a-la-Crosse, La Loche Mission, La Loche River and Portage la Loche. All successful applicants received either $240 in money scrip or 240 acres in land scrip, regardless of date of birth (this is in contrast to prior scrip commissions which required a particular birth date and where $160 in money scrip or 160 acres of land scrip was given to adults and $240 in money scrip or 240 acres of land scrip given to children). In 1908, a further 17 Metis claims to land title were made during the payment of annuities to Aboriginal residents of Lac la Ronge and Pelican Narrows. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- While the government’s presumed legal authority to assess these claims is questionable, as it is based on the assumption that it supersedes any rights to land claims made by Aboriginal or Metis people, it should also be noted that the claims made during the Treaty 10 era do not represent the totality of Metis people in the region. Some Metis individuals, particularly those in the northern and eastern fringes of the Treaty 10 area which spanned approximately 85,500 square miles, were prohibited by economic circumstances to leave their work during the busy summer months for several days. As well, there were other obstacles to filing claims, such as the language barrier (many Metis spoke Michif or French), the foreign, cumbersome and confusing nature of the Crown’s bureaucratic policies (the Metis would have had little to no experience with written laws, deeds or money), and the length of time that was required for processing (the process of obtaining scrip varied from commission to commission, and the application was frequently approved on-site if the individual qualified. The standard format involved filling out an application and an affidavit or obtaining the testimony of two reliable and disinterested witnesses. Following approval and reception of the land scrip coupon, the claimant needed to go to the Dominion land office and enter the scrip, which initiated the long wait to receive a land patent. This was granted as long as there were no conflicts with other settler claims, reserves, or public projects like railways or schools. The latter part of the process involved formalities, paperwork, and lengthy waits). Collectively, these factors served to discourage Metis people from making claims. Although the government may not have had malicious intent in making the process extremely drawn-out and complex, it served to discriminate against the Metis, not only by insisting that they conform to EuroCanadian government policy regarding recognition of land sovereignty, but because it made the process of obtaining such recognition difficult. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The end result for many Metis was alienation of their land title claims, if not because of the difficulty involved in obtaining them, then because of being preyed upon by land speculators. Land speculators frequently lurked alongside scrip commissions and land offices to purchase land scrip certificates, and speculators also frequently organized to agree upon a pre-set price so that Metis individuals had no bartering leverage to negotiate a better deal. In the struggle to adjust from a buffalo economy to an agrarian economy, many Metis were driven by poverty to sell their land scrip certificates for a fraction of their value. Also, government information about scrip certificates was not readily available and, when it was available, was unclear to applicants. As a result many Metis individuals failed to appreciate its value. There was also notable difficulty in locating the land distributed to them in the claim. Government documents clearly implicate the government in fraudulent dealings, as Commissioners, at least part of the time, worked in conjunction with land speculators to make the transfer of land easier. In government memoranda from 1921, it notes: “It appears that the scrip was handed to the half-breeds by the agent of the Indian Department and it was then purchased, for small sums of course, by speculators. However the half-breed himself was required by the Department of the Interior to appear in person at the office of the land agent and select his land and hand over his scrip. In order to get over this difficulty they speculator would employ the half-breed to impersonate the breed entitled to the scrip. This practice appears to have been very widely indulged in at one time. The practice was winked at evidently at the time and the offences were very numerous.” (Memorandum for Mr. Newcombe, 14 October 1921). ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Evidence of land speculation in relationship to Treaty 10 proceedings demonstrates some of the government’s attitudes towards Metis land rights. In a series of telegrams which were sent in July of 1907, the Minister of the Interior, Frank Oliver, became involved in a dispute whereby a scrip buying representative of Revillon Brothers named Bernard was using intimidation tactics to influence other scrip buyers and sellers. Oliver had received a telegram from an agency named Bradshaw, Richards and Affleck which advised him that “Revillon Brothers through representative Bernard in charge transportation Borthwick commission, is buying all scrip and terrorizing other script buyers submit Revillon Brothers. Government contractors should be prohibited, please wire answer.” Oliver replied to the agency that the government had no authority to prohibit individuals from buying scrip, but that he had also wired the acting Indian Agent for Mistiwasis, Thomas Borthwick, to see that Bernard did not use undue influence or terrorize either the “halfbreeds” (Metis) or other scrip buyers. To Borthwick, Oliver said, “See that he uses no undue influence in any degree with respect to any person You will be held responsible.” Oliver also wired Revillon Brothers and instructed them to notify Bernard that a complaint had been made and that he should “act accordingly.”
The speculation in Métis scrip, the fraud that often accompanied it, and the government’s refusal to protect scrip lands from these illicit activities deemed this land distribution policy a moral failure for the government and a devastating loss for the Metis, whose potential to succeed in an emerging capitalist economy would now be severely hindered. This subject is still debated in the secondary literature, but ultimately, government officials were fully cognizant of the role of speculation and fraud in the scrip process, and in fact, accepted it. Conservative historian Thomas Flanagan states that the Metis were free to participate in the free market by selling their scrip. Flanagan's argument, however, fails to address the creation of conditions of poverty by the government in the decimation of the buffalo economy and encroaching settlement. It also fails to address the issue of consent. If the Metis were not made fully aware of the value of the land scrip certificates and the implications of selling it by the government, they cannot be held to have engaged in a fully consensual process by selling it in the free market. Balanced scholarship acknowledges that the Metis economic institutions had been based on a system of bartering and trade. Metis individuals, therefore, were not familiar with the use of bank notes (cash), land certificates (scrip) and other operations of Euro-Canadian financial institutions. Furthermore, Dominion Land Offices were located a significant distance from Metis settlements, and many Metis could not take a week of vacation to travel to the office to inquire about the significance of scrip certificates. Legally, the fully informed consent of both parties is required to satisfy the ethical requirement of business dealings in Canadian law. As well, another factor affecting consent is the sale of scrip under duress/intimidation, which is also demonstrated to have been present in the selling of Metis scrip as mentioned by Minister Oliver in the aforementioned telegrams.
Working reports and final reports by McKenna and Borthwick are on RG 15, Series D II 1, vol. 991, file 1247280, title: "J.A.J. McKenna, Commissioner to make treaty with Indians [1906-1914]"; McLean's brief report on his scrip taking activities can be found in RG 15, Series D II 1, vol. 1007, file 1457869, title: "W.J. McLean re. taking affidavits for Half-Breed scrip [1908-1914]".
Northwest Resistance: Memorandum for the Hon. the Indian Commissioner Relative to the Future Management of Indians
In a May 1885 correspondence to the Indian Commissioner, an official states that it is his impression that Moosomin, Turtle Lake and Thunderchild bands will remain loyal, and that if they are not, that they will be discreet enough to at least appear to hold a position of neutrality. The writer was unsure regarding the loyalty, disloyalty or neutrality of Poundmaker. The writer also states, “It would seem to be matter for regret that we should not endeavour to keep well disposed Indians in hand, but the military authority superseding ours, renders it impossible to make any move in this direction.”
In a correspondence from May 29, 1885, from Indian Agent MacDonald to the Indian Commissioner, the Agent writes,
“If it can be done I would strongly recommend that the File Hill Band of indians be treated with by General Middleton, in the same manner he has done with those north - Invite the Chiefs and Head men to meet him at Fort Qu’Appelle, order the men to surrender their arms, depose the three chiefs and unruly head men and those who killed the cattle we will punish [there had been an oxen found, stripped of meat - assumedly killed by Aboriginal people, who were likely starving]. Actions of this kind will settle all difficulties in the future in this Treaty, an example should or must be made, I see no better one than to treat the File Hill Bands as having been disloyal during the troubles North had they been harshly dealt with previous to the battle of Batoche these four bands would have been on the warpath, reinforced by young bucks from other Reserves within the Treaty and by some halfbreeds what the consequences would have been no one can tell….The Northern Indians have got a lesson which they will never forget.”
In a June 2, 1885 letter from the Indian Commissioner to the Superintendent General, the Commissioner writes, “The guilty Indians should also be severely punished as an example to others in the future and the Chiefs and Head men deposed as suggested by Agent McDonald.
In a June 5, 1885 letter from the same Commissioner to Indian Agent MacDonald, the Commissioner reiterates these plans:
“In a letter from the Indian Commissioner to the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, the Commissioner recommends numerous ways to punish First Nations and Métis who were involved in the resistance: “I told the young men to consider over well what was going on [up] North. The Government was determined to punish all who took up arms against the Queen’s laws no matter how slight they may be, and no matter whether he was a White or Black man, Halfbreed or Indian, they would be dealt with alike.”
The following is a summary of the Memorandum for the Honorable Indian Commissioner relative to the future management of Indians (the summary is not a direct transcription but aims to use as much original phrasing as possible):
1. All Indians who have not during the late troubles been disloyal or troublesome should be treated as heretofore.
2. It is suggested that all leading Indian rebels whom is it found possible to convict of particular crimes such as instigating and inciting to treason, felony, arson, larceny, murder, be dealt with in as severe a manner as the law will allow, and that no offence of their most prominent men be overlooked.
3. Métis involved in the rebellion convicted will be punished in similar manner.
4. That the tribal system should be abolished in as far as is compatible with the Treaty, ie. in all cases in which the Treaty has been broken by rebel tribes; by doing away with chiefs and councillors, depriving them of medals and other gifts to their offices.
5. No annuity money to any ‘rebellious’ bands or individuals who joined “insurgents... The annuity money which should have been expended wholly in necessaries has to a great extent been wasted upon articles more or less useless and in purchasing necessaries at exorbitant prices, entailing upon the Department a greater expenditure in providing articles of clothing, food and implements not called for by the terms of the Treaty…”
6. Disarm all rebels, but to those rebel Indians north of the North Saskatchewan River who have heretofore mainly existed by hunting: return shot guns (retaining the rifles), branding them as Indian Department property and keeping lists of those to whom arms are lent.
7. No rebel Indians should be allowed off the Reserves without a pass signed by an Indian Department official.
8. The leaders of the Lakota who fought against the troops should be hanged and the rest be sent out of the country as they are certain of the settlers who are greatly inclined to shoot them on sight.
9. Big Bear’s band should either be broken up and scattered among other bands or be given a Reserve adjacent to that of Onion Lake.
10. One Arrows band (later seen on the ‘not loyal’ list of bands in Carlton Agency) should be joined with that of Beardy and Okemasis (also considered ‘not-loyal’) and their present Reserve surrendered and dealt with by the Department for their benefit. Chekastaypaysin’s band should be broken up and their Reserve surrendered, the band being treated similar to One Arrows. Neither of these bands are large enough to render it desirable to maintain Farming Instructors permanently with them and as they are beyond assistance.
11. All Métis, members of rebel bands, although not shown to have taken any active part in the rebellion, should have their names erased from the Paysheets and if this suggestion is not approved of, by forcing anyone belonging to a band to reside on Reserves. It is desirable however that the connection between Métis and the Indians be entirely severed as it is “never productive” (Researcher observed note in margin of this document which was presumably by another official, possibly the Commissioner. The note simply says “yes” to indicate agreement.)
12. Not applicable
13. James Teenum, Mistawasis and Ahtahkakoop should receive some gift of government appreciation for their conduct [not participating in the rebellion].
14. Agents should be particularly strict in seeing that each and every Indian now works for every pound of provision given to him.
15. Horses of rebel Indians should be confiscated and sold, and cattle or other necessities be purchased with the profits of such sale as this would encourage an agricultural lifestyle.
In the weeks and months following the Northwest Resistance, there was no questioning or introspection on behalf of government officials regarding underlying causes for the Resistance beyond racist stereotypes of Indigenous stubbornness and resistance to Victorian notions of 'civilization' and 'progress.' Rather, following attempts of Métis and First Nations non-violent diplomacy, the government responded with force towards their negotiations. Indian Affairs officials advocated that non-loyal bands be “harshly dealt with,” that an “example should or must be made,” that “ guilty Indians should also be severely punished as an example to others,” and that they “be dealt with in as severe a manner as the law will allow.” Several of the recommendations were carried out, including the right to earn a livelihood. The implementation of the pass system (article 7 of the memorandum - see also separate entry under “pass system” in database) would severely inhibit the ability of Indigenous peoples to organize politically, or be advocates against the settler colonial occupation. The removal of arms such as guns and knives also meant that ability to hunt was severely undermined. It should also be noted that the government used tactics including fear and intimidation by hanging eight other leaders and Louis Riel in a public forum. They also sentenced Poundmaker and Big Bear to prison, inevitably leading to their hastened deaths.
The government recruited First Nations people as police constables in order to surveil activity on reserves, and to gather evidence that would incriminate peoples on reserves for 'illegal activity.' Government officials were particularly concerned about the sale and trade of liquor on reserves. This was also a cost-saving measure, as First Nations constables were paid less than settler counterparts. The government hired First Nations peoples who were deemed "reliable and intelligent," as directed by western academic standards, who were deemed morally upstanding by Indian Agents, and who conformed to Christian morals.
A dividing line was placed between the adjacent reserves of Ocean Man and Red Pheasant.
Creation of Muscowpetung agency on July 1st, 1885. The group of bands comprising this agency included Piapot, Muscowpetung, Pasqua, and Standing Buffalo.
The Government of Canada provides a transcribed version of the 1886 report, which can be found here http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?id=1886-IAAR-RAAI&op=pdf&app=indian… (page 58).
Sub-division of agencies -- detachment of Fort Pitt (Onion Lake) from Battleford, detachment of Moose Mountain from Birtle, and division of Treaty 4 agency into Touchwood Hills, File Hills, Muscowpetung's Assiniboine, and Crooked Lake agencies.
Chiefs of loyal bands were invited to visit Ontario and Quebec following the end of the 1885 resistance. The following chiefs attended: Ahtakhakoop, Mistawasis, O'Soup, Kakewistahaw. They went on a guided tour around these two provinces, including attending the unveiling of a statue dedicated to Mohawk leader Joseph Brant