Types of Records
Census Documents | Manitoba Declarations | Scrip Applications
A Guide to 1901 Census of Canada
A Guide to the Section 31 Manitoba Act Affidavits Document Series
Beginning in 1870, the Dominion of Canada was responsible for enumerating inhabitants of the country through national censuses. These censuses were intended to gather detailed information about individuals and communities. In a new nation undergoing rapid settlement, the early Canadian censuses were a means for the government to keep track of demographic and economic changes occurring in different parts of the country. The censuses allowed the government to develop policies and plans for settlement, policing, resource use, and other issues.
Historically, large portions of western and northern Canada were referred to, for census purposes, as the “unorganized territory” district. The unorganized district was relatively sparsely populated and geographically remote in comparison to the centre of the political and economic powers (Ottawa and Montreal). Urban and more settled areas of Canada were considered organized districts. In some cases, the types of information collected in the organized districts differs from the unorganized district, and the schedules used for organized districts were more complex and detailed.
The 1901 Census of Canada, in particular, can be very useful for identifying the historical Métis population in both the “unorganized” and “organized” territories. In this census, as with earlier censuses, Treaty Indians were enumerated by officials of the Department of Indian Affairs rather than by the regular enumerators. Métis people were enumerated in the regular census but in some districts were clearly identified as “halfbreeds” (the common term used for Métis at the time). Additionally, information on “Colour” attempted to record general racial categories – White (Caucasian), Red (Aboriginal), Black (African) or Yellow (Asian). Métis (and other people with Aboriginal ancestry) in this census were identified consistently as “Red.” Additionally, the category “Racial or Tribal Origin” recorded the “origins” of Métis. For example, many Métis were identified as “French Breeds,” “English Breeds,” “Cree French Breeds,” etc. Because of the provision for “Colour” and “Racial or Tribal Origin,” the 1901 census might be described as a racial census by today's standards, nonetheless, these data categories can be of use in identifying an historical Métis population.
It is important to note that not every individual or family enumerated as “Red” or “Breed” were necessarily members of the historical Métis Nation. The 1901 Census for British Columbia, for example, uses the term “breed” to refer to anyone of mixed ancestry (not specific to Aboriginal/European mixed ancestry). This makes the identification of actual Métis families and individuals in these districts problematic. Furthermore, even when it can be determined that the parentage of an individual was Aboriginal and European, we cannot assume the individual to be Métis, in accordance with the contemporary understanding of Métis cultural/historical identity. See the Métis National Council definition of “Métis.”
Further Information on the 1901 Census | Data Categories for 1901 Census Document Series | Ambiguities and Irregularities in the 1901 Census Data
In 1869, the Dominion of Canada and the Hudson’s Bay Company made arrangements for the transfer of “Rupertsland,” a territory that had, to that time, been considered by the Imperial authorities as the effective property of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The people residing in and around the Red River settlement (largely Métis) were concerned that they were not consulted about the transfer, nor the impacts it would have on their lands and livelihood. Their concerns were exacerbated with the arrival of Canadian Surveyors at Red River and the appointment of an English speaking outsider as Lieutenant Governor (William MacDougall) for the territory in advance of the transfer. In February of 1870, the Métis and other residents of Red River formed a Provisional Government with Louis Riel as their leader, and were recognized as the de facto authority of the area. After months of tension between the Canadian and Provisional Governments, three delegates from Red River were sent to Ottawa to negotiate with Canada and resolve the situation. The result of the negotiations was the Manitoba Act, 1870, a statute that established Manitoba as a Province in the Dominion of Canada and protected specific rights of Red River residents. The Manitoba Act was given constitutional status by the Imperial Parliament via the British North American Act, 1871 (Constitution Act, 1871).
Section 31 of the Manitoba Act addressed the extinguishment of Indian title by granting 1.4 million acres to the children of Métis families residing in the province at the time Rupertsland was transferred to Canada (15 July 1870). Sub-sections 1 to 3 of Section 32 of the Act dealt with the recognition, by Canada, of land already acknowledged as personal property by the Hudson’s Bay Company prior to the transfer. Sub-sections 4 and 5 of Section 32 dealt with people who possessed land or had access to resources before and/or during the transfer of land.
Although the Manitoba Act was passed in 1870, months of discussion and debate occurred within the government about how to carry out the distribution of land to the Métis. In the spring of 1875, John M. Machar and Matthew Ryan, barristers from Kingston and Montreal respectively, were appointed by Canada as Commissioners to investigate claims of “children of half-breed heads of families to participate in the grant of land, and the claims of the heads of families to a grant of scrip.”1
Through federal Order-in-Council P.C. 128 1/2 on 23 March 1876 the recommendations and methods used by Machar and Ryan to distribute scrip were formally adopted and approved, thereby formulating a process of carrying-out Section 31 of the Manitoba Act of 1870.2 Manitoba Métis “children-of-heads-of-family” were issued 240 acres of land, and “heads-of-family” were issued $160 in the form of scrip. After the 1.4 million acre land grant had been allocated, Métis individuals who had not been included in the original allocation, but who had a claim, were issued supplemental scrip (ca. 1885).3
The actual process of granting the 1.4 million acres of Section 31 land required Métis individuals to make an application, in the form of an affidavit, with the Commissioners who were appointed by the government. These Affidavits contained information about the applicant’s family, occupation, marital status, children, and residence. We now refer to these documents as the Section 31 Manitoba Act Affidavits (or “Manitoba Affidavits”).
The federal Department of the Interior presided over and kept records of the process of Manitoba Act grants. These records, including the original Affidavits used for Section 31 grants, still exist today and are held by Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa. The Affidavits were microfilmed by the National Archives.
1 LAC, RG 15, vol. 38, file 2, N.O. Cote, “Administration and Sale of Dominion Lands,” Department of the Interior, 1931. See also Jeffrey Murray, “A Guide to the Records of the Metis Scrip Commissions in the National Archives of Canada,” National Archives of Canada, nd, p. 24 [unpublished].
2 Murray, “A Guide,” p. 24. See also Thomas Flanagan, Metis Lands In Manitoba (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1991) pp. 139-140.
3 This claims process was associated with the Northwest “Half-breed” scrip that dealt with Métis scrip claims outside of the original postage-stamp province of Manitoba.
Further Information on Section 31 Manitoba Act Métis Grants | Data Categories in Section 31 Manitoba Act Affidavits Document Series | Ambiguities and Irregularities in Section 31 Manitoba Act Affidavits Data
A Guide to the Northwest “Half-breed” Scrip Applications Document Series
In 1879, the Dominion Lands Act was amended to allow the Canadian government to deal with Métis claims stemming from the “extinguishment of Indian title” in the Northwest Territories,1 outside of the boundaries of the Province of Manitoba.
During the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, the government began issuing “Half-breed Scrip” to Métis people in the Northwest Territories. “Half-breed” scrip entitlements were issued in amounts of either 160/240 acres or $160.00/$240.00 between the years of 1885 and 1925. In 1929, the Department of the Interior reported that a total of 14,113 “half-breed” claims had been dealt with in the Northwest, amounting to the distribution of 1,161,612 acres and $2,137,097.00 in scrip.2 The Northwest scrip system was influenced by the procedures used in the distribution of the Manitoba Act grants. However, Northwest Scrip was not identical, either in process or distribution, as the scrip and land grants issued in the “postage stamp” Province of Manitoba.
Scrip Applications were the first step in a Métis person’s claim to scrip. Similar to Manitoba Affidavits, these documents asked questions about the Métis claimant’s family, occupation, and residence. Today, these documents are valuable tools for research, providing genealogical, geographical, and occupational/economic information on the historical Métis population.
1 At the time, the “Northwest Territories” consisted of what is now Saskatchewan, Alberta, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Keewatin portion of Manitoba that was not included within the original 1870 provincial boundaries.
2 LAC, RG 15, vol. 38, file 2, N.O. Cote, “Administration and Sale of Dominion Lands, Claims Under the Manitoba Act, Half-Breed Claims, and Letters Patent for Dominion Lands,” (Ottawa: Department of the Interior, 1931) p. 19.
Further Information on Northwest “Half-breed” Scrip | Data Categories for Northwest Scrip Applications Document Series | Ambiguities and Irregularities in Northwest Scrip Application Data
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