Métis Nation History

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Metis-HenryHowseScrip





In March, 1885, Canada was startled by the news that the half-breeds of the Saskatchewan district in the North-west had risen in rebellion against the authority of the Dominion government. It is difficult to explain clearly the actual causes of an uprising which, in all probability, would never have occurred had it not been for the fact that Riel had been brought back from Montana by his countrymen to assist them in obtaining a redress of certain grievances. This little insurrection originated in the Roman Catholic mission of St. Laurent, situated between the north and south branches of the Saskatchewan River, and contiguous to the British settlement of Prince Albert. Within the limits of this mission there was a considerable number of half-breeds, who had for the most part migrated from Manitoba after selling the "scrip[6]" for lands generously granted to them after the restoration of order in 1870 to the Red River settlements. Government surveyors had been busily engaged for some time in laying out the Saskatchewan country in order to keep pace with the rapidly increasing settlement. When they came to the mission of St. Laurent they were met with the same distrust that had done so much harm in 1870. The half-breeds feared that the system of square blocks followed by the surveyors would seriously interfere with the location of the farms on which they had "squatted" in accordance with the old French system of deep lots with a narrow frontage on the banks of the rivers. The difficulties arising out of these diverse systems of surveys caused a considerable delay in the issue of patents for lands, and dissatisfied the settlers who were anxious to know what land their titles covered. The half-breeds not only contended that their surveys should be respected, but that they should be also allowed scrip for two hundred and forty acres of land, as had been done in the case of their compatriots in Manitoba. Many of the Saskatchewan settlers had actually received this scrip before they left the province, but nevertheless they hoped to obtain it once more from the government, and to sell it with their usual improvidence to the first speculators who offered them some ready money.

[6: A certificate from the government that a certain person is entitled to receive a patent from the crown for a number of acres of the public lands--a certificate legally transferable to another person by the original holder.]

The delay of the government in issuing patents and scrip and the system of surveys were no doubt the chief grievances which enabled Riel and Dumont--the latter a resident of Batoche--to excite the half-breeds against the Dominion authorities at Ottawa. When a commission was actually appointed by the government in January, 1885, to allot scrip to those who were entitled to receive it, the half-breeds were actually ready for a revolt under the malign influence of Riel and his associates. -- Canada under British Rule 1760-1900, by John G. Bourinot (Primary source documents / Timeline)



Métis Nation History

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