Manitoba Act and the Métis

Manitoba Act and the Métis
Manitoba entered Confederation on July 15, 1870, and was the
first province to enter under the British North America Act (BNA
Act) after the original four provinces.
The Manitoba act of 1870 enacted by Parliament in response to
the Métis concerns of the provisional government led by Louis
Riel. Riel had a major impact on the Manitoba Act which was
based on his list of rights.
• The Red River colony and its surroundings would become
the province of Manitoba, which was a tiny area around
the Red River Colony.
• Unlike other provinces initially Manitoba would have its
land and other resources initially administered by the
Federal government
• The Manitoba Act made French and English official languages
in province and provided for the right to a dual public school
denominational schools - Protestant and Catholic. The two
languages, English and French, reflected the political reality
of Manitoba's population then which was about 6,000 French
speaking and 6,000 English speaking in 1871.
• Guarantee that they would receive title for the lands they
already farmed and 1,400,000 acres (5,700 km2) of farmland
for the use of their children.
• It would seem that Métis rights and interests were protected.
• As a result of the settlement Prime Minister John A.
Macdonald convinced the British to send a military force of
1000 soldiers to Manitoba, led by Colonel Wolseley. Canada
had no army at that time.
The Red River Expedition at Kakabeka Falls, Ontario, enroute to
• The Métis were frustrated by the Canadian government in their
attempts to obtain land promised to them as part of Manitoba's
entry into confederation.
• The Manitoba Act recognized Métis aboriginal rights by way of
their Indian ancestry and granted 1.4 million acres of land and
seemingly assured all the native inhabitants of Manitoba that the
land they already occupied would not be jeopardized by joining
• Sections 31 and 32 of the Act committed Canada to distributing
approximately two and a half million acres of land among the
inhabitants of Manitoba of 1870.
• An estimate of the amount of land actually allotted to the
Métis by 1882 is estimated to be less than 600,000 acres.
• Troops sent into the Red River Valley to oversee the peaceful
transition to a province instead rained terror and brutality on
the Métis.
• Macdonald remarked: “These impulsive Metis have got spoilt
by the emeute (uprising) and must be kept down by a strong
hand until they are swamped by the influx of settlers.
• Gaining title to their land was a confusing process.
• All settlers were required to have scrip.
• Scrip was a piece of paper given to the Métis. Money scrip had
a value of $160.
• Land scrip entitled a person to 160 acres of land.
• The Métis were used to a traditional economy without money,
and did not understand the value of scrip.
• Many became dispossessed by selling the scrip to
unscrupulous land speculators for a fraction of its true value.
In the Northwest, the Métis recreated the pattern of settlement
established at Red River at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The Catholic church was always at the centre of the community.
Income was drawn from subsistence farming. hunting buffalo, and
hauling freight for the HBC.
• Macdonald vision was the continuance of a steady stream of
white settlers from Eastern Canada to Manitoba’s farms and
thus overwhelming the Métis
• Land scrip enabled the government to exercise some form of
control over the lands which the Métis settled.
• Money scrip so issued in hopes the Métis would use the cash
and not acquire title to their land in Manitoba.
• Many of the Métis left Manitoba as they felt disillusioned
• Riel’s provisional government had negotiated favourable
terms with Canada.
• Occupying soldiers land speculators , the scrip process ,
influx of new white settlers caused many Métis to seek a
home elsewhere.
• A large number of Métis settled to the Northwest, where
they tried to recreate a pre-1869 Red River community
without interference.
Métis population distribution 1870
• The massive slaughter of the bison nearly drove the animal into
• The slaughter was to clear way for farming homesteads in the
United States and Canada and to forced Natives onto
• The traditional Métis way of life was severely disrupted, as they
lost a major source of, clothing, and trade (pemmican).
• As a result, the slaughter caused great economic and social
• The decline of bison forced the Métis to adopt strict hunting
rules to conserve the animals. The Laws of St. Laurent were an
extension of the Métis List of Rights, and formed the
constitution of the community.
• These laws governed all aspects of life, including the bison hunt.
• The community would elect a president and council.
• The council had final authority over disputes.
• The captain of the bison hunt regulated the hunt.
• The Laws of St. Laurent did not usurp the authority of the
Canadian government.
• Lawrence Clarke - HBC Chief Factor at Fort Carlton.
• Clark bigoted and believed in the inferiority of the Métis.
• He abused his position in attempts to lower the standard of living for the
Métis. He hired Métis carriers on temporary basis (no job security) and
he paid them as little as he could.
• Instead of cash he paid the Métis in trade goods thus reducing the
expenses of the HBC, making the Métis dependent on him.
• Clarke also asked the Canadian government to provide a
magistrate to enforce Canadian law in the Fort Carlton area.
• The government responded by appointing Clarke the
• Clarke abused these powers – instead of applying justice and
fairness, Clarke wielded and manipulated the law for the
benefit of the HBC.
• Any Métis who objected to the low pay, or who attempted to
strike for better wages, could be imprisoned.
• Gabriel Dumont, the president of the
Métis, arrested several people who
broke the law by hunting before the
official hunt had begun.
• These people appealed to Chief
Factor Clarke, who in turn arrested,
tried, and punished Dumont.
• This incident proved to the Métis
that they had no power; not even
power to regulate the buffalo hunt.
• Although the federal government
acknowledged Dumont acted
properly they did not rebuke or
reprimand Clarke.

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