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Manitoba Act Section 31

Distribution of Land to the Children of the Half-Breed Heads of
Families (1.4 million acres).

Many people are confused as to the process for Metis children to receive their land under
the Manitoba Act. Many people think that the land was transferred by way of scrip issued
to these children. The land was actually allotted by way of a lottery draw in each parish
and subsequent notation in the Land Titles office of the land each child was to receive, by
Township/Section/ and Range. Upon reaching age 21, the person would attend to the
Land Titles office and receive a patent for their land.

An Order-in-council of April 25, 1871 established that the Lieutenant Governor would
conduct a lottery to carry out the children’s land grant. They began in the summer of
1872 when the Dominion Lands Survey was sufficiently advanced for the officials to
choose blocks to make up the 1.4 million acres, in each township, located mostly behind
the parishes where the children to whom the land was to be distributed lived.
Complications arose and a commission consisting of two lawyers, Machar and Ryan,
were appointed. They toured Manitoba in the summer of 1875 and approved 5,088
children’s claims (at 240 acres per claim). The drawings began during the last week of
October 1876. They proceeded parish by parish but because of further delay were not
completed until February of 1880.

The Lottery
As noted, the drawings and allotment of the lands began on October 30, 1876, under
Morris' supervision. In a letter to Ottawa reporting the beginning of the drawing, the
Lieutenant-Governor reopened the discussion as to the advisability of publishing lists
containing a description of the allotment and the names of the allottees as soon as
possible after the distribution had been approved by the Privy Council, and recommended
again that the lands so allotted should vest in the allottees pending the issue of patents. 1
The Department of the Interior, in this instance, either viewed the suggestions with
favour, or had already decided upon some such practice, because lists began to issue early
in 1877, which described the allotments, designated the allottees, and stated that the
claims of such allottees had been approved.2 The lists of children by parish were made up
showing the location of the land they were to receive beside each child’s name. These
were sent to Ottawa for Privy Council approval, then broadsides were made up for each
parish and published. Because of the lengthy delays a number of the children were
deceased by the time the lottery was done. In these cases the draw was completed and the
notation of the broadside has the preface “Legal representatives of…” before the name of
the deceased child.

P.A.M. (LG), Letter Book M, Morris to Secretary of State, 2 November, 1876.
P.A.M. Folio of these parish lists is on deposit.

This is the upper right hand portion of the Broadside for St. Norbert Parish.

More Delay
All but seven of the parish allotments were completed in 1877 under Lieutenant-
Governor Morris’ supervision and 1,115 patents were issued in that year. 3 Joseph
Cauchon succeeded Morris as Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba on December 2, 1877,
and although he was asked to proceed at once with the allotments in the remaining
parishes, he declined to do so because of representations that were made to him
concerning disputed claims which existed in some of the parishes.4 The Department of
the Interior was forced to investigate these claims and as a result allotments in two
parishes only were made during 1878.5 In that year, however, the Minister in order to
facilitate the final disposal of the Halfbreed grant received authority to issue patents to all
claimants irrespective of age or sex.6 Allotments were made during 1879 and the early
months of 1880 in the five remaining parishes. Patent issue was practically completed in
1880, and it may be said that in that year the half-breed land grant in Manitoba was

Receiving Land
Upon reaching age 21 the children could attend at the Land Titles office and obtain a
patent for the land that was held in their name. Later, provision was made for judicially
approved sales by children upon parental application to the Court of Queen’s Bench. This
ended in scandal because the protections to be afforded the children’s in these sales were
not implemented and many parents were manipulated and duped by speculators into the
sale of their children’s lands.

Children’s Grants

1877: First patent issued.
1881: Half of patents issued.
1890: Last patent issued.
They did eventually run out of available land within the “postage stamp” province of
Manitoba and some Supplementary Scrip was issued to satisfy children’s allotments. The
last (children’s) supplementary scrip was issued in 1919.

Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell
Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research
C.S.P., 1878, No. 10, Part III, p. 5.
Debates (HC), 1878, p. 693; Mills remarks re Cauchon.
C.S.P., 1879, Part II, p. 4.
D.I., No. 2, p. 733, Order-in-Council, 4 July, 1878; this Order rescinded Sections 6 and 7 of the Order-in-Council of April 25, 1871,
which provided that patents should issue only to claimants 18 years or over.

Louis Riel Institute