Manitoba History: Economic Aspects of Aboriginal Title in Northern Manitoba: Treaty 5 Adhesions and Métis Scrip

by Frank Tough
Department of Native Studies, University of Saskatchewan

Manitoba History, Number 15, Spring 1988

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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On the seventy-fifth anniversary of the expansion of Manitoba through its acquisition of a large chunk of the Keewatin District it is worthwhile to consider the question of aboriginal title. The resource rights and possessory ownership of land by Indians is known as aboriginal title. These legal rights are acknowledged because Indians occupied specific lands prior to European expansion. Europeans realized that further encroachment on Indian land could be facilitated if aboriginal title was acknowledged. Treaties became a procedure for acknowledging aboriginal title, and from the government’s point of view, a means for “surrendering” aboriginal title. On one level, aboriginal title was something that was “given” so that it could be “taken” away. The legal and political approach to aboriginal title stresses the meaning of legislative and legal documents. Today, this approach provides a very incomplete foundation for making the case for aboriginal rights.

Before a large part of the Keewatin District was added to Manitoba in 1912, aboriginal title was “surrendered” through a series of adhesions by Indian bands to Treaty Five and with applications by individual mixed bloods for “Halfbreed Scrip.” This paper con-tributes to our understanding of treaties and aboriginal rights by examining and interpreting various written records associated with the adhesions to Treaty Five in 1908, 1909 and 1910. This look at aboriginal title in northern Manitoba has been influenced by previous findings on treaties and it seems that the economic dimensions of the treaty process have been overlooked. [1] In the 1870s, Indian participation in treaty-making was shaped by a stagnant fur trade. Their bargaining position during treaty talks was a sensible economic program which would help them meet the challenges that were coming with the transfer of Rupertsland from the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) to the Dominion of Canada. The HBC control over subsistence and commercial activities and a depleted resource base led Indians to suggest alternate economic activities which could be funded through the terms negotiated in a treaty. The fur trade economy and economic pressures from outsiders provide a starting point for explaining the adhesions to Treaty Five.

A variety of aboriginal people inhabited the Keewatin District. The Treaty Five adhesions included the following Indian groups and “trade post bands”: the Swampy Cree (York Factory, Split Lake, Oxford House, Gods Lake), Woods Cree (Nelson House), Chipewyan-Dene (Churchill), and Oji-Cree (Island Lake, Deers Lake). A significant mixed-blood population had been created by the fur trade. Generally those that did not live as part of a band were known as “Halfbreed” and tended to have a Swampy Cree/Scots-Orkney heritage. Historically, the difference between Indians and Half-breeds had less to do with blood and race than with different economic roles which more strongly influenced daily life and identity. Indians produced furs, whereas Halfbreeds represented the HBC’s Native wage laborers. By 1900, however, the economic differences between Indians and Halfbreeds had been blurred and this had implications for the legal distinctions between Natives which emerged with the treaty adhesions.

Between 1870 and 1900 the fur trade had reduced wage employment, but also, Indian trappers needed summer York boat work to make a living. During the period of HBC monopoly (1821-1870), the “Native economy” had been composed of closely interlocked subsistence and commercial sectors. Furs and food had been acquired both for survival and for trade. By hunting for furs and provisions, Natives had maintained a close association with the land. The effect of the “non-commercial” subsistence activities had been to reduce the overall cost of furs. Because subsistence resources were “free” or at least inexpensive, fur producers had not required high wages to purchase expensive imported food. Following the surrender of Rupertsland and up until 1900, fur prices remained low and this meant that Indian income from the commercial sector was inadequate. Frequently the scarcity of game and fur bearing animals resulted in additional hardship for the Indians of northern Manitoba. These economic conditions had implications for the political relationship that developed between the State and Natives of Northern Manitoba.

The story of treaty-making north of the Treaty Five (1875) boundaries includes interesting and irregular peculiarities. Indians from the area north of Treaty Five frequently requested a treaty. Nonetheless, the timing of the adhesions and consequently the terms of the treaty were controlled by the Government and in this case treaty-making was done at the Government’s convenience. The terms of the Treaty Five adhesions represented a bare minimum conceded by the State to assist Indians with post 1870 conditions. Moreover, the procedures followed during treaty-making were rather sloppy. This paper will examine both the treaty adhesions and the Halfbreed scrip issue. Aboriginal title in northern Manitoba cannot be appreciated without considering the effect of Halfbreed scrip on the Natives in northern Manitoba.

Geographical and Economic Aspects of Treaty Five: 1875-1876

To follow the story of aboriginal title in Northern Manitoba, it is necessary to consider the original Treaty Five signed in 1875 and 1876. The terms of Treaty Five are similar to Treaties One and Two. Annuities, treaty supplies (ammunition, twine), access to subsistence resources, reserves, and some support for agriculture were to be provided by the government and Indians were to maintain law and order and give up land. This stands in contrast to reservations created by Treaties Three and Four, which were based on 640 acres per family of five. [2] There are no reasons for the discrepancy in the size of reserve land allocated by these different treaties, except perhaps government short-sightedness. For Treaty Five bands, the smaller reserves complicated the processes of selecting reserve locations and establishing boundaries. Smaller reserves also provided less resources to deal with the post 1870 conditions.

Treaty Five covers part of the Interlake, the lower Saskatchewan River and the Shield country adjacent to Lake Winnipeg. In 1873, Lieutenant-Governor Alexander Morris dismissed the idea of a treaty because “the country lying adjacent to Norway House is not adapted to agriculture purposes” and “there is therefore no present necessity for the negotiation of any treaty.” [3] But by 1874, Morris was suggesting a limited treaty around Lake Winnipeg. [4] There was some ambiguity about the northern boundaries of Treaties One and Two and a desire to clear the southwest shore of Lake Winnipeg for the Icelandic settlers. A treaty with just the Berens River and Island bands would have reinforced the area surrendered by Treaties One and Two where aboriginal occupation did not correspond to the areas described by the treaty.

Nonetheless, the priority given to the Icelandic settlement does not explain why bands as far west as Cumberland House or as far north as Cross Lake were included in Treaty Five. In 1874, Morris recommended treating with the Berens River band because “trading, sailing of vessels and steamers will be carried on and probable settlement of the shore of the lake.” [5] The resource potential of the area allowed Morris to justify the treaty since

the prevalence of timber suitable for fuel and building purposes, of lime and sandstone, of much good soil, and natural hay lands on the shore of the Lake, together with the great abundance of white fish [sic]sturgeon and other fish in the lake, will ensure, ere long, a large Settlement. [6]

Additionally, the development of steam navigation on Lake Winnipeg and the lower Saskatchewan River meant that the government was interested in securing a navigable right of way. Thus, bands between Grand Rapids and Cumberland House came under Treaty Five. Morris correctly foresaw that until the completion of the railroad “the lake and Saskatchewan River are destined to become the principal thoroughfare of communication between Manitoba and the fertile prairies.” [7] As well, the “extinguishment” of Indian title may have been done to facilitate Indian migration and settlement. In the early 1870s some Norway House Indians expressed a desire to relocate and establish an agricultural settlement on the southwest shore of Lake Winnipeg. But the most comprehensive economic and geographical explanation for Treaty Five was provided by Morris:

The progress of navigation by steamer on Lake Winnipeg, the establishment of Missions and of saw milling enterprises, the discovery of minerals on the shores and vicinity of the lake as well as migration of the Norway House Indians all point to the necessity of the Treaty being made without delay. [8]

Generally, it is held that the value of land for agriculture was the sole reason for government treaty-making. But at this early date the potential resources of the boreal forest were attracting attention. Morris’s rationale for Treaty Five indicates that a broader appraisal of the resources and geography of western Canada had developed.

Pressure for a Treaty from Indians North of Treaty Five

Indians from the nonceded areas of northern Manitoba attempted to initiate the treaty process. Their reasons for suggesting a treaty reveal that Indians viewed treaties as a means to improve their economic conditions. After paying annuities at Norway House (1876) Commissioner T. Reid recorded a meeting with the Oxford House Chief and Councilors

who were anxious to know if the same bounties would be extended to them as were being extended to their brethren of Norway House and Cross Lake, and also whether they could obtain a Reserve on Lake Winnipeg, as the country in which they were living was totally unfit for cultivation, and that they had the greatest difficulty in procuring a livelihood. [9]

From this point until the Treaty Five adhesions some thirty years later, Indians from northeastern Manitoba made repeated requests for a treaty and aid. During this time there was a noticeable migration from the non-treaty area north of the Treaty-Five boundaries to the Norway House area (see Map 1). These non-treaty Indians took up residences on or near reserves and intermarried with Treaty women. Some Indians from the country were attracted to Lake Winnipeg because commercial fishing created a demand for labour.

Map 1. Treaty Five Adhesions, 1908-09-10.

Map 1. Treaty Five Adhesions, 1908-09-10.
Source: Frank Tough

Numerous requests for a treaty, sometimes involving missionaries as intermediaries, were received by the Canadian government and have been summarized in Table 1. At least nineteen specific requests were made in the three decades that followed the original Treaty Five. In 1876, Reverend Kirkby of York Factory met with Lieutenant-Governor Morris about the suggestion for a treaty and a movement of Indians to Lake Winnipeg. [10] Morris suggested that a written request would lead to a treaty. [11] Other problems existed with the arbitrary boundary of 1875 which divided northern Manitoba into treaty/non-treaty areas. In 1895, the Native Missionary James Settee informed Lieutenant-Governor J. Schultz that there were “about twenty persons, who have not received annuity like their Brethren although having been residents previous to the Treaty” and “Split Lake Indians living at Cross Lake who witness payments made to their friends and receive nothing.” [12] Kickee Ke Sick (York Factory) argued for a treaty “because we are getting poorer every winter.” [13] Thus in non-treaty areas, Indians such as J. Kitchigijik, would state; “so I look to you for help in the way others of our people have it.” [14] In 1894, Settee reported to Schultz the Split Lake Indians’ desire for a treaty since “their lands are getting poor in hunting.” [15] Nelson River Indians used their aboriginal title to pressure for a treaty. During the early 1880s, when a railway scheme was proposed, the annual report noted that Nelson River Indians “do not want to see any more surveyors, explorers or white men going into their country before a Treaty is first made them.” [16] On several occasions in the early 1890s, Keewatin’s Lieutenant-Governor Schultz recommended the extension of treaties. [17] Additionally, in 1897, Lieutenant-Governor Schultz’s successor, J. C. Patterson, told Keewatin Indians that he would pass their treaty request on to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. [18]

Table 1.
Indications of a desire for a Treaty by Indians in the nonceded areas of northern Manitoba.

July 1876

Oxford House Chief and four Councilors request inclusion in Treaty Five and reserve on Lake Winnipeg from Commissioner Reid

CSP, Indian Affairs, 1877, No. 11, p. 1i

17 July 1876

Kirkby meets Morris, York Factory Indians want Treaty

PAC, CMS, A-102

6 December 1877

York Factory Indians request Kirkby to write Morris for same privileges as Norway House

PAC, CMS, A-103

30 March 1878

Manachemin arrived at Island Lake to discuss treaty with Peter Walker

HBCA, B.93/a/8

27 August 1878

Two canoes from Island Lake depart for Oxford House expecting a treaty to be made

HBCA, B.93/a/8

1 July 1880

Oxford Indians request treaty from Governor Morris

PAC, RG 10, Vol. 3722, File 24, 161

10 September 1881

Peter Walker, Oxford House, inquires about treaty matters

PAC, RG 10, Vol. 3677, File 11,528


Nelson River Indians want a treaty and consult with Norway House Indians

CSP, Indian Affairs 1884, No. 4, p. 97


Chief Kichee Ke Sich, York Factory request for a treaty and aid

PAC, RG 10, Vol. 3713, File 20,626

9 June 1885

John Hardie, Nelson River, requests a treaty

PAC, RG 10, Vol. 3722, File 24, 161

10 July 1885

Chief Magnus Harper, Island Lake, requests a treaty

PAC, RG 10, Vol. 3722, File 24, 161

August 1891

Chief John Wood, Island Lake, requests a treaty

PAC, RG 10, Vol. 3722, File 24, 161

20 September 1894

Settee to Schultz, Nelson River, Split Lake, Oxford House and Trout Lake Indians desirous of making treaty

PAM Schultz papers, MG12 El, No. 6565

24 August 1897

Treaty request put to Patterson by Chief Peter Muskego, Oxford House

CSP, Keewatin, 1898, No. 13, p. 14

Summer 1902

Chief Jeremiah Chubb, Oxford House and John Wood, Island Lake convey a desire for a treaty through Semmens

PAC, RG 10, Vol. 3722, File 24, 161

20 February 1906

Split Lake Indians write requesting a treaty

PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249, 462, pt. 1.

9 December 1908

Chief Charles Wastaskekoot, York Factory request a treaty

PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249, 462, pt. 1.

18 June 1909

Robert Fidler, Deers Lake (formerly Sandy Lake) requests a treaty

PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249, 462, pt. 1.

4 August 1909

Chief James Daliyasse, Churchill requests a treaty

PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249, 462, pt. 1.

Indian responses to the territorial unevenness of the treaty process are evident in subsequent migration patterns. The difficulties of the commercial hunting economy in northeastern Manitoba served to push, while treaty benefits functioned to pull, Indians south to the treaty area. In 1879, Indian Agent A. Mackay reported that “[a] number of Indians from along the Nelson River, who formerly used to inhabit and hunt within the limits of Treaty Five, have now taken up their residence with the Norway House band” and “Indians from the vicinity of York Factory, who have migrated to Norway House about two year ago” both claimed a right to annuities. [19] Thus, in the 1870s and 1880s Non-Treaty Indians, that is Indians that had not signed a treaty, had become integrated at Norway House and had settled on the reserve. Inspector McColl reported “None of those non-treaty Indians ever receive any annuity although they are always clamoring for it.” [20] At times, Indians from the nonceded area were anxiously anticipating a treaty. The Rev. E. Eves reported in 1892 that “[m]any more of the York Factory indians [sic] have moved to Split Lake and are intending to take up a piece of land that in view of being treated with before HBRR [Hudson Bay Railroad] is put through they may keep as reserve.” [21]

Until the turn of the century, treaty requests by Indians pointed to the poverty of the fur country and the somewhat higher living standards of reserve Indians. These contrasts encouraged Non-Treaty Indians to ask for inclusion. For example, in 1902, Indian Agent J. Semmens reported on a meeting with Chief Jeremiah Chubb (Oxford House) and John Wood (Island Lake) who pressed for a treaty citing the following: their poverty relative to Treaty Indians; the higher prices for trade goods; and the need for education for their children. They were also troubled that strangers were coming into their area—timber hunters, mineral prospectors and railroad surveyors. [22] Semmens reported that they

believed that the country is possessed of great wealth in minerals and in fish, fur and forests, and assurance is felt that the strong hand of the King’s people can bring about such changes as will materially improve the condition under which we now live. [23]

Furthermore, Chubb and Wood told Semmens that “Last of all we are tired of the old life of the woods and are ready to welcome our White Brothers and to come under the more immediate protection of Our Great Father the King.” [24] In 1907, Semmens recorded the Nelson House Chief’s willingness to treat.

The Chief was very quiet in his manner, but had looked over the matter in the light of his own interests and those of his Band pretty carefully. He said that the coming of the road [railroad] would interfere with the game upon which his people relied wholly. They were hunters and boatmen and knew no other employment and any-thing affecting seriously the fur catch would hit them hard. Surely he said, the government would consider his welfare and if his occupations were interfered with [,] would be willing to treat with him so no misunderstanding would arise and no friction result. [25]

Thus, Indians were aware of the pending economic changes and of the wealth of the land; some were willing to consider new economic activities and they saw a treaty as compensation for pending resource disruptions.

Treaty Five Adhesions: Policy and Terms

While the Indians of the nonceded areas were willing to enter into treaty, the government was reluctant to do so between 1876 and 1907. There are several reasons why the government repeatedly rejected getting involved with the treaty process and with Indians living in Keewatin. In 1880, the government did not consider treating because the land around Oxford House was not good for agriculture and not required for immigration. [26] In another response in 1885 (a difficult year for Indian policy), the Superintendent General was “of the opinion that [it] is of importance to avoid making treaties with Indian Bands” and that “the country occupied by these Indians ... is not wanted for settlement by Whites, and the Indians can continue to live by hunting and fishing.” [27] Thus, the government was willing to engage in the treaty process only according to its own timetable. This timetable was based on an assessment of external needs and not on a concern for the economic conditions of Indians.

Chief and Councillor elect, York Factory, 1910.

Chief and Councillor elect, York Factory, 1910.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Eventually, the government sought extinguishment of Indian title in Keewatin and added the names of Indians originally from the non-treaty area who had taken up residence in treaty areas. The file on the adhesions to Treaty Five begins with correspondence concerning the encroachment of commercial fishermen on the sturgeon fisheries of Split Lake Indians. The Reverend Cox challenged the right of commercial fisher-men to operate in non-treaty areas. [28] This complaint revealed to the Department that the Split Lake Indians were Non-Treaty Indians living in an area partly ceded by Treaty Five. The Department’s reasoning suggested that if the hunting grounds of the Split Lake band were part of Treaty Five (1875), these Indians would be entitled to a back payment of annuities. [29] Clearly, part of the Split Lake band territory was in Treaty Five and this illustrates the ambiguity of treaties with respect to treaty boundaries, land use, and migration. By 1908, the efforts to build a railroad to Hudson Bay had become more realistic, and this provided the main rationale for the extension of Treaty Five. The Deputy Superintendent decided in 1908 that;

In view of railway activity in that part of the country and the probable projection of the Canadian Northern to Churchill, I think it would he well to prepare for the way for taking all the Indians of this district into Treaty when it becomes necessary to do so. [30]

Although the Department of Indian Affairs had ignored three decades of Indian pressure for a treaty, Indians may still have affected the treaty process. Semmens reported in 1907 “I heard that there was a great deal of agitation at Nelson House over some surveys which were made along the route of the Hudson Bay Railway” and that the Nelson House Chief “said that the coming of the road would interfere with the game upon which his people relied wholly.” [31] Thus a number of reasons would eventually justify a treaty. Along with the advantages of extending treaty benefits to Indians who had already requested a treaty, the potential problems of commercial encroachment on Indian fisheries and the non-treaty status of the Split Lake band had to be resolved. Nevertheless, the decisive reason for treating at this time was the need to clear aboriginal title for the railroad. Still, some officials felt it undesirable to take all the Indians in this territory under treaty, and they advocated waiting until settlement pressure had increased. [32]

The Department was uncertain about how to proceed with the extinguishment of Indian title. Options included initiating a new treaty or having Indians sign adhesions to Treaty Five or Treaty Ten. Treaty Ten covered northern Saskatchewan and was initiated in 1906. In 1907, a new treaty was considered because it would avoid the problem of annuity arrears if established treaties were used to bring Indians outside Treaty Five under treaty. [33] Until the spring of 1908, it seemed that Nelson House and Split Lake would adhere to Treaty Ten and Semmen’s appointment commissioned him to take adhesions to both Treaties Five and Ten. [34] In fact, the Department of Indian Affairs frugal accountant, D.C. Scott, recommended that Split Lake Indians be attached to Treaty Ten because the terms “are a little more liberal than those of Treaty Five” and the Treaty Ten gratuity would be an “additional inducement to get them to accept Treaty without arrears of annuity.” [35] Nonetheless, it appears that the Department could avoid paying 30 years of arrears by offering a small gratuity and at the last moment it was decided to use an adhesion to Treaty Five for all bands. [36] Map 1 indicates the sites where adhesions to Treaty Five were taken. Not all bands presently living in northern Manitoba signed Treaty Five. Bands were visited in the year prior to the surrender as part of the process of acceptance. In 1907, Semmens visited Nelson House and Split Lake to discuss a treaty. Semmens took treaty at Nelson House and Split Lake and visited Oxford House, Gods Lake and Island Lake to discuss treaty in 1908. At the same time he added the names of Non-Treaty Indians who had originally come from the newly ceded area of the adhesion to the band lists of Cross Lake, Norway House, and Fisher River. It was necessary to secure these individual adhesions since their claims would not be settled simply because members of their former bands had agreed to a surrender. In 1909, Semmens treated with Oxford House, Gods Lake and Island Lake Indians while W. McLean discussed a treaty with the Churchill and York Factory bands. Finally, in 1910, Semmens added Deers Lake (Ontario), Fort Churchill, and York Factory Indians to Treaty Five. Interestingly, the York Factory band, a group of Indians with the longest White contact, were the last Indians to sign a treaty in Manitoba. The inclusion of the Deers Lake band is yet another example of territorial ambiguity. Although these Indians from northern Ontario traded at Island Lake, they were a separate band whose focus of activities was not located in the area described by Treaty Five.

The basic text of the adhesion stated simply that the terms were not retroactive and that the Indians

transfer, surrender and relinquish to His Majesty the King, his heirs and successors, to and for the use of the Government of Canada, all our rights, title and privileges whatsoever, which we have or enjoy in the territory described in the said treaty, and every part thereof, to have and to hold to the use of His Majesty the King and his heirs and successors forever. [37]

The adhesion outlined the area surrendered, stipulated that the surrender included “all other lands wherever situated,” accepted the benefits of Treaty Five with reserves based on 160 acres per family of five, provided a proportional amount of ammunition and twine and paid a gratuity of five dollars. [38] The decision to use Treaty Five instead of Treaty Ten was no small matter for the Indians of northern Manitoba. Treaty Ten provided for larger gratuities ($32 for Chiefs, $22 for Councilors and $12 for Indians) and much larger reserves (640 acres per family of five). On the question of reserves, Semmens was told to “be careful to make such a location as will not conflict with existing land claims in the district.” [39] Consequently, mission and commercial interests had a higher priority. As well, he was cautioned that “[i]t is extremely important that no outside promises should be made during the negotiation of the treaty.” [40] In short, when the government finally decided to treat with the Indians of northern Manitoba, it selected from the existing treaty framework and took the most parsimonious terms. The use of adhesions to the old 1875 Treaty by the Department of Indian Affairs in 1908 reveals that the government was not interested in using the treaty process to assist Indians to deal with a changing regional economy.

Problems with Treaty Five Adhesions

The written documentation on the adhesions to Treaty Five is deficient. Thus, we have an incomplete image of the role of the Indian in the treaty-making process in this part of northern Manitoba. In fact, the published annual report does not explain the terms or the reasons for the adhesions. [41] The records do show that in 1907 the Split Lake band requested the following terms as part of a treaty: seeds and garden tools, carpentry tools, rations during the treaty payments and rations for the sick and destitute; farm animals, wagons, ploughs and harrows; twine and ammunition; and hunting and fishing rights. [42] Furthermore, Chief W. Ke-che Kesik wanted “to keep our same hunting and fishing grounds that we have had for a long time.” [43] Indian Commissioner David Laird felt that these demands were unreasonable and wondered “[i]f the Indians keep their hunting and fishing grounds, what do they surrender?” [44] Laird’s comment on these demands illustrates that the problem of interpreting aboriginal title surrenders is not just a contemporary concern.

Indians going to Nelson House for treaty, 1910.

Indians going to Nelson House for treaty, 1910.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Semmens reported in 1907 that the Split Lake Indians wanted hunting implements and no agricultural implements, but they also wanted an early survey of a reserve around the Nelson River. [45] At Churchill, during the treaty negotiations, the journalist A.V. Thomas recorded the Chipewyan concerns:

When the Commissioner had finished and the time for asking questions had come, some of the leading Chipewyan expressed concern for their hunting rights. If they gave up their land to the government, would they have the right to hunt as their fathers had done before them? If they were not allowed to hunt, they would starve. They had heard about a railway being built to bring the white man to Churchill; how would that affect them? Would they have to live within the reserve which the government would give them? [46]

According to Thomas, Semmens’s answers to these and many other questions relieved their anxiety and “He assured the Indians that not for many years to come, probably not in the lifetime of any of them, would their hunting rights be interfered with.” [47] Chipewyan interest in a treaty may have been the result of pressure from anticipated disruptions, since McLean reported in 1909 that “[t]hey were afraid that changes would take place that would not be good for them.” [48] Similar concerns were expressed by York Factory Chief C. Wastaskekoot in 1908: “[n]ow that the Hudson Bay Railroad is coming down our way we hope that the government will take us under their care. Our hunting lands will be ruined by the shriek of the Iron Horse” and “We will be at a loss to know how to feed and clothe our little ones.” [49] As well, at the York Factory treaty talks Semmens reported Indian fears that government hunting regulations would “force them into a condition of poverty.” [50] Again Semmens argued that “very little of their country would be touched by the proposed railway, perhaps none at all” and that they would be compensated for losses. [51] The issues raised during the treaty talks by Indians related to their future in the regional economy.

Although Indians raised issues during the treaty talks, the adhesion to the treaty usually only took a matter of a few hours. [52] In part this happened because Indians had been requesting a treaty and because preparatory visits had been made in the preceding year. Nonetheless, Semmens alluded that at Split Lake “[t]he white men of the locality had prepared our way most effectively” and “[t]he advice given to the Indians by these men made our work very easy.” [53] The need for a treaty at Island Lake was evident from Semmens’s report that “accompanying the illness (la Grippe) was a condition of poverty and destitution which it is impossible to describe.” [54] According to Thomas, when Semmens addressed the Indians “He talked to them much as a man talks to children.” [55] A standing vote was held, and in the case of York Factory, Semmens notes that “[a]fter free discussion and quiet assurances, they declared themselves ready to vote for Treaty.” [56] This was followed by the election of Chief and Councilors and the signing of the Treaty. At Oxford House, Indians who had never handled a dollar, in Semmens’s words, “suddenly found themselves the proud possessors of the key to plenty.” [57]

The historical record indicates that despite Semmens’s intentions and optimism, a number of problems existed. Although Semmens had been a Cree-speaking missionary, he requested an interpreter for the treaty party. [58] Certainly the communications with the Churchill Chipewyan were not very good. Thomas reported: “[ill proved very difficult for Commissioner Semmens, upon his arrival, to make much headway with them. He could not speak to them it is true, in their deeply guttural tongue, and the communications he received from the band through an interpreter were unsatisfactory and nebulous.” [59] Semmens erred with treaty procedures when he had the Split Lake Indians sign the wrong document. Apparently they signed the adhesion for the Non-Treaty Indians resident in the treaty areas and not the adhesion for the Split Lake Band. J. D. McLean, the Department’s secretary considered this “a serious error” and asked: “[w]hether in dealing with the Split Lake Indians you explained to them the contents of the Treaty which they should have signed and by which they gave up their right to 133,400 square miles of territory.” [60] Semmens replied that the treaty had been explained but that his clerk had passed him the wrong adhesion. [61]

A more fundamental problem was the sequence of procedures that Semmens followed during treaty-making. The conventional treaty process began with the band selecting Chiefs and Councilors who articulated their concerns. Significantly, the procedure for Treaty Five Adhesions differed from those used by earlier treaties. Instead, the agenda included an address by Semmens, questions and discussions, a standing vote for the treaty, and the election of Chief and Councilors followed by signing of the treaty. [62] This procedure did not enhance the authority of the Chiefs during the talks and would tend to relegate them to a ceremonial role (treaty signing). At Nelson House this created a specific problem. At this adhesion Semmens gave a three dollar instead of a five dollar gratuity; but when “the newly elected Chief asked that it be increased to harmonize with the payments at Split Lake” Semmens replied that this “was not thought to be proper as objection was not raised in time.” [63]

In the years immediately following the treaty, a number of problems arose that suggest that the treaty was not properly explained or understood. In 1909, W. McLean reported that Split Lake Indians would not accept treaty goods, held their own council, and then asked questions concerning hunting and trapping rights. [64] Similarly, at Nelson House, McLean answered “various questions regarding trapping, hunting and fishing upon which they did not appear to be intelligently informed.” [65] At the time of treaty the concept of the reserve seems not to have been explained properly. When D. Robertson went to survey the Split Lake Reserve, he “found that the Indians had a very exaggerated idea of the extent of reserve to which they are entitled.” [66] A number of grievances were raised by the York Factory band between 1915 and 1918 based on misunderstandings of written treaty terms. For example, in 1916, E. D. Moodie of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police (RNWMP) “explained various other matters to them regarding killing of game out of season, etc. Nothing appears to have been properly explained to them in the past, but now apparently they are satisfied on all points brought up.” [67] The problems which emerged so soon after treaty-making strongly indicate that a real discussion had not occurred at the treaty-talks. Discussion was restricted by the government’s hasty style and sloppy procedures, and because language differences were not properly accommodated. Moreover, the government approached the adhesions with fixed terms and did not seriously consider Indian needs as northern Manitoba was about to be opened-up by industrial capital.

Treaty Five Adhesion Scrip

In Manitoba, north of the 1875 treaty boundaries, Métis title or Métis claim to aboriginal title was “surrendered” during the adhesions to Treaty Five and Ten through individual applications for scrip. In contrast to treaties which compensated Indian title in a variety of ways, Halfbreed scrip was a once-in-for-all payment. Aboriginal title was exchanged for money or land scrip. Privy Council Order 1114 (May 12, 1908) permitted the investigation of scrip claims and Privy Council Order 1060 (May 29, 1909) provided money scrip for 240 acres in any Dominion Lands open for homestead entry. [68] It is important to note that the activities of speculative scrip buyers preceded the appointment of the Reverend Semmens as treaty and scrip commissioner. The missionary J. H. Lowes at Oxford House presumed in February of 1908 that the government was going to treat since “some sharpers have heard it and mean to take unfair advantage of our people’s ignorance and before there is any competition gobble up everything.” [69] Lowes reported that employees of the HBC had circulated blank forms which signed scrip over to A. A. McDonald of Winnipeg. (For details concerning scrip buying in the area added to Treaty Five see Table 2). It appears that no real consideration was given to Métis title, and J. D. McLean wrote the Interior Department in May of 1908 that treaty adhesions were about to be made and that “[i]t occurs to me that you might think it well to deal with the half-breed claims at the same time.” [70] Nonetheless, scrip buyers were in place before any formal decision was made by the Interior Department. Indeed, for the 1908 adhesions, Semmens casually noted that “We were accompanied by Chester Thompson, a very honorable gentleman of the City of Winnipeg who appeared to be connected with some Winnipeg Firm interested in the purchase of half-breed scrip.” [71] At Oxford House Semmens explained the two methods to “extinguish the rights of Natives,” but the scrip applications were taken after all treaty business was concluded. [72] Again, with the treaty Five Adhesion scrip, the government’s approach to Métis title would fail to provide the Métis with the means to deal with changes that followed the surrender of aboriginal title.

Table 2.
Events associated with Treaty Five adhesion - Halfbreed scrip.

28 February 1908

Lowes writes Laird about scrip buyers at Oxford House, associates C. C. Sinclair and D. Flett with Winnipeg scrip interests of A. A. McDonald

7 May 1908

Indian Affairs to Interior Department, notified about pending Treaty five Adhesions and suggests that the Interior Department may be interested in taking Halfbreed claims

12 May 1908

Privy Council order 1114 appoints Semmens as treaty and Half-breed claims commissioner

Summer 1908

Semmens accompanied north by Chester Thompson, a scrip buyer

10 October 1908

Semmens reports that C.C. Sinclair and other HBC men had canvassed Oxford House in the winter of 1907-08 on behalf of Thompson and Richards and Affeck

March 1909

Lowes reports that scrip buyers (Sinclair, Anderson and Flett) for McDonald had been advancing trade goods at Oxford House

Fall 1909

Dr. Tyerman and H. Halcrow form partnership

November/December 1909

Halcrow leaves Norway House in the company of H. A. Tremayne and C. C. Sinclair. Halcrow purchases for himself and Tyerman York Factory and Churchill Halfbreed scrip claims

December 1909

Thompson sends F. Rousseau to York Factory to purchase scrip

Summer 1910

Tyerman and Thompson enter into agreement to act together to keep scrip prices low

Summer 1910

A number of Oxford House Indians inform Semmens that they wish to withdraw from treaty in favour of scrip

Summer 1910

Halcrow assists Churchill and York Factory Halfbreeds with scrip applications


Fur Trade Commissioner Hall decided to purchase scrip. Richards gets Hall to join with those that have already advanced payments on scrip (main scrip buyers would seem to include: Thompson, Tyerman, Halcrow, Richards and Affeck, and Hall)

Summer 1911

Scrip issued. Hall sends H. S. Johnston to accompany Richards/Affeck interests. Scrip purchased

Spring 1912

Scrip purchased

9 December 1912

HBC (London) begins to investigate Hall's role in scrip buying

12 December 1912

Nanton, on behalf of the Canadian Committee defends Hall

February 1913

Hall resigns as Fur Trade Commissioner

Sources: PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, Files 249,462, pt. 1 and 249,462, pt. 1A; HBCA, A. 12/FT MISC/273 and A. 12/L 13/2; UCCA, Sutherland papers, Lowes correspondence (March 29 and 31, 19

The volume of scrip issued on account of the Treaty Five Adhesions was not significant, however, because of the private dealings of some HBC employees (see Table 2). The documentation on this scrip issue is particularly interesting. In 1908, Semmens visited the north-east and concluded that the Reverend Lowes’s claims concerning the activities of scrip buyers were not supported because only two bags of flour had been advanced and the HBC was not directly involved in scrip buying. [73] Only twenty-five Natives indicated an interest in scrip. [74] It appears the initial efforts at scrip buying by the A. A. McDonald interests did not go very far (see Table 2) but later with the signing of Treaty Five at York Factory and Churchill scrip buyers had become more established. Semmens explained:

Scrip vendors have employed certain agitators to go through the North and assure these people that they were foolish to have taken Treaty when it can be proved that they have even a drop of white blood in their veins. These men have with very great persistence sowed discontent and expect to reap a rich harvest by these methods. The Indians are quite exercised over the situation and are much unsettled. [75]

Chief and Councillors elect, Fort Churchill, August 1910.

Chief and Councillors elect, Fort Churchill, August 1910.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

When Semmens treated at York Factory in 1910 he encountered difficulties because of the activities of scrip buyers and as a result: “[s]ome who were Indian in appearance, habits, language and manners, and who were known only as Indians to all their friends came to apply for scrip.” [76] Furthermore, a number of Treaty Indians were interested in withdrawing from treaty in favour of scrip. [77]

Some additional insights on scrip are possible because the HBC’s good name became associated with the sordid business of scrip buying. In particular, Fur Trade Commissioner R.H. Hall was held responsible for scrip buying. The London Secretary, F. C. Ingrams, wrote to Hall because “[i]t would appear that this scrip was obtained from them [Natives] at a price far below the market value of the land it represents, and that the Company has been brought into disrepute by this action.” [78] Table 2 shows that scrip buyers formed partnerships and then absorbed potential competitors. The Company’s records indicate that “Dr. Tyerman and Mr. Thompson entered into an agreement in the summer of 1910 for the purposes of acting together in keeping others out of the field, and of buying the scrip with as little expense as possible.” [79] In 1911, Hall decided to take part in purchasing York Factory and Churchill scrip, however, his concern was absorbed by the Tyerman and Thompson interests after being approached by S. E. Richards from the law firm Richards, Sweatman, Kemp and Fillmore. Since advances had been made towards the purchase of a scrip, a new buyer would have raised the cost of scrip or resulted in out-right losses. [80] It seems that H. Halcrow did much of the field work, as Richards stated:

Halcrow went for the purpose of assisting the half breeds in presenting evidence in support of their claims, and of persuading them to take scrip instead of treaty. It was entirely due, we are informed, to Halcrow’s efforts in this matter that the half breeds did apply for scrip instead of going into treaty as Indians. The Treaty, Commissioner and the Missionaries showed a strong inclination to, persuade half breeds to go into treaty. Mr. Halcrow has informed the writer that if he had not been present at the time the Treaty was made, that practically all the half breeds would have gone into Treaty instead of applying for scrip. Mr. Halcrow then made further advances to the half breeds to offset the moneys they would have received for treaty. [81]

This statement by a party associated with the scrip buyers verifies Semmens report. It also explains why Churchill and York Factory had significant scrip applications. Clearly, a variety of forces shaped the legal status of aboriginal identity.

As with Halfbreed scrip in general, there is very little information on the purchase price or the value of the Treaty Five Adhesion scrip. Nevertheless, the efforts by speculators to arrange agreements and to outfit travelling middlemen would suggest that scrip buying had some financial prospects. [82] Under a contract in 1908 A. A. McDonald agreed to pay $200 for adult scrip and $50 for minor’s scrip. [83] For a family of four (two adults and two minors) this represented a markup of 92 percent on the face value of scrip. The nominal value of scrip did not correspond to the value of land. At Churchill, one mixed blood was offered $450 for his scrip (face value of $720) but he held out for $1100. [84] In this instance the Metis received more than the nominal value of the scrip. The history of Treaty Five Adhesion scrip indicates that scrip buyers felt compelled to form a cabal and, for northern Manitoba, Nanton stated that “[t]here are very few buyers of the character of the scrip issued at these points, and therefore the half-breeds have to take practically what is offered to them.” [85] Perhaps the best indication of the value of Treaty Five Adhesion scrip is Richards’s statement that “at the time the Agreements were entered into for the purchase of the scrip, the scrips were not worth more than one-fourth of their present value.” [86]

The failure of scrip was well known by the early 1900s and Nanton observed that with “scrip, the half-breeds have in every instance disposed of [it] to speculators and, in most cases, sacrificed their holdings.” [87] Since York Factory and Churchill Métis were issued scrip for land located in Saskatchewan and Alberta, scrip policies in northern Manitoba were ludicrous. After his experiences as a scrip commissioner, Semmens made some observations on this method of surrendering Métis title.

The claim of half-breeds of Keewatin is based upon adhesions made in that territory. Why not give them land on their own soil instead of allowing them to claim valuable Alberta or Saskatchewan Lands which they will not improve. They sell to white men as soon as they receive a settlement and these white men pay but little and gain much and grow wealthy quick on advantages intended for the half-breed only. If it were determined that Keewatin Lands would be given it would dampen the ardour of buyers and lands good enough for the half-breed might be given for their use in their own territory. My experience goes to show that nine-tenths of these people will not settle on the land given them. They will realize as quickly as possible and then relapse into a state of semi-starvation and come back to the Indian Department for assistance in time of scarcity or of sickness. [88]

From the point of view of a Métis land base, giving Keewatin Halfbreeds prairie land did not really make sense. As with previous policies toward the Métis, with the treaty Five Adhesion scrip lawyers were supplied with a speculative investment and the Keewatin Métis were left without a land base. It is important to note that these lawyers could not buy directly; local parties—those associated with the fur trade or of mixed blood—played a necessary role.


For Indians covered by Treaty Five Adhesions, benefits from surrendering aboriginal title were largely ephemeral. The immediate impact of the treaty at Oxford House was noted by Commissioner Semmens:

It was delightful to observe the transformation which took place in general appearance in the next few years. Famine gave place to plenty. Rags were supplanted by modern apparel. Solemnity was followed by hilarity. Everybody was glad and it shall remain a question as to who appreciated the situation most, the givers or those who received. [89]

Perhaps Semmens has exaggerated the changes that came with the initial treaty payment, certainly he has mixed up the “givers” and “receivers.” In his memoirs and without deference to the historical record, Semmens recalled that the adhesion to Treaty Five “was accomplished with entire satisfaction to all parties concerned.” [90] An all too revealing editorial in the Manitoba Free Press in 1910 warned of the dangers of White encroachment on Native resources and argued that; “It will be to the lasting disgrace of Canada if she allows the 6000 [?] Indians and halfbreeds between Lake Winnipeg and Hudson Bay to be demoralized and decimated as other Indian tribes have been ... They deserve a better fate.” [91]

For many years, the Department of Indian Affairs consciously rejected the treaty process as a means to assist Indians in dealing with the deprivation associated with a commercialized hunting economy. The timing of treaty making was based on government expediency and the needs of a railroad company. When deciding which treaty format to implement, the government selected the terms which offered the least to Indians. Nonetheless, Indian people had an active role in this process. They attempted to use the treaty to deal with the declining fur trade and to protect the hunting economy from encroachment and they were willing to participate in the anticipated commercial boom. Some of the confusion that followed the Treaty Five Adhesions was the result of Semmens’s mistakes. Moreover, the state had gained from its experiences in the earlier treaty period (1871-1876) and it was able to set the timing and terms of the treaty.

The visit to northern Manitoba by scrip buyers was brief, but their actions had long term effects. Generations of northern Manitoba Natives lost benefits that derived from legal Indian status because of self-serving land speculators. Unlike scrip settlements, Treaties were not a once-in-for-all payment. Annuities, relief, subsistence rights, treaty supplies and a land base, albeit small, provided Indians with some assistance to deal with a changing regional economy. Halfbreed claims were not negotiated; land and money scrip were momentary compensation for aboriginal title. Halfbreed scrip, as issued by the Department of Interior, did not meet the Crown’s legal obligations for acknowledging aboriginal title. These two approaches to aboriginal title placed Native Peoples under different jurisdictions. Treaty Indians came under the Indian Act and the Department of Indian Affairs. The Métis initially dealt with the Department of Interior and eventually came under provincial authority, especially with the transfer of natural resources in 1930.

This look at the Treaty Five Adhesions, based on written records, suggests that there are outstanding problems. Future research may establish that in northern Manitoba, legal and political questions about aboriginal title have yet to be resolved.


1. This paper is derived from my Ph.D. thesis. In the early treaty process (1871-1876) economic issues were raised by Indians. See Frank Tough “Native People and the Regional Economy of Northern Manitoba: 1870-1930s” (Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Geography, York University, Toronto, 1987).

2. Morris provides a good reference for the terms of various treaties. Alexander Morris, The Treaties of Canada (Toronto: Coles Publishing Company, 1979, original 1880).

3. Public Archives of Manitoba, Lieutenant Governor Alexander Morris, MG12 B1, microfilm, Reel 5, No. 53, Fort Garry, 22 August 1873. (Hereafter PAM, Morris papers).

4. PAM, Morris papers, MG12 B2, Reel 7, No. 108, Morris to the Minister of the Interior, 16 April 1874.

5. Ibid.

6. Canada, Sessional Papers, 1876, Annual Report of Indian Affairs, No. 9, p. xxxiii. (Hereafter all annual reports on Indian Affairs published in the Sessional Papers, regardless of branch or department status, will be CSP, Indian Affairs).

7. Morris, Treaties of Canada, p. 143. He also stated that “the necessity for it [Treaty Five] had become urgent.”

8. PAM Morris papers, MG12 B2, Reel 5, No. 258, Morris to the Minister of the Interior, 31 May 1875. Since Morris believed that some Norway House Indians came from the Lower Saskatchewan he felt that it should be included in Treaty Five. He fixed “the western boundary as defined in the treaty for the following reasons: ... That a number of the Norway House “Indians came from Moose Lake and the Cumberland region, and possessed rights there which have been included in the boundaries.” CSP, 1876, Indian Affairs, No. 9, p. xxxiv.

9. CSP, 1877, Indians Affairs, No. 11, p. ii. In 1878, Island Lake Indians had anticipated a treaty. The daily journal recorded: “lots of Indians arrived here last night having a council about starting for Oxford House to hear about the great Money Mastery” and “Two canoes started for Oxford on Sunday about the great Treaty they expect to be made with them.” Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, B. 93/a/8 (24 and 27 August 1878). (Hereafter, HBCA).

10. Public Archives of Canada, Church Missionary Society, Microfilm A-102 (14 September 1876). Hereafter, PAC, CMS).

11. Ibid.

12. Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Lieutenant Governor J. Schultz Papers, MG12 El, No. 6565. Settee to Schultz, 20 September 1894. (Hereafter PAM, Schultz papers).

13. Public Archives of Canada, Public Records of the Department of Indian Affairs, RG 10, Vol. 3713, File 9388 (3 December 1877). (Hereafter, PAC, RG 10).

14. PAC RG 10, Vol. 3658, File 9388 (3 December 1877).

15. PAM, Schultz Papers, MG12 El, No. 6566 (20 September 1884).

16. CSP, 1884, Indian Affairs, No. 4, p. 97.

17. For examples see Canada, Sessional Papers, 1893, Annual Report for the Interior Department, Report of the Lieutenant Governor of Keewatin, No. 13, p. 4. (Hereafter CSP, 1893, Keewatin); CSP, 1894, Keewatin, No. 13, p. 4; and PAM, Schultz papers, MG12 El, No. 6565.

18. CSP, 1898, Keewatin, No. 13, p. 14.

19. CSP, 1880, Indian Affairs, No. 4, p. 75.

20. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 3774, File 36,924 (17 January 1887).

21. PAM, Schultz Papers, MG 12 El, No. 5926 (14 July 1892).

22. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 3722, File 24,161 (26 September 1902).

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid.

25. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (17 October 1907).

26. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 3722, File 24,161 (12 November 1880).

27. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 3722, File 24,161 (October 26, 1885). In 1900 the same point concerning land quality and settlement was used to justify not treating with the Indians, see PAC, RG 10, Vol. 3722, File 24,161 (17 December 1900).

28. The issue of the treaty boundaries with respect to Split Lake was raised in 1903 concerning the operations of commercial fishing. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (7 September 1903).

29. Prior to 1887 the Split Lake band traded at York Factory and with generally unfavorable economic conditions on the coastal lowlands there was a migration to Split Lake in the 1880s. Clearly the treaty signed in 1876 could not deal with this. The Department did not seem to be informed about the development of the Split Lake settlement. Concerning the Split lake entitlement to treaty see PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249, 462, pt. 1 (5 October 1905).

30. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (14 February 1908).

31. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (17 October 1907).

32. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (14 February 1908). On the question of Split Lake Indians and a treaty, J. D. McLean stated: “The Department does not feel disposed to hurry matters,” PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (11 April 1907).

33. OAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (21 March 1907). There is no clear discussion about a new treaty, however, a new treaty would have opened the negotiating process to greater Indian demands.

34. In fact, a memo recommended extending Treaty Ten across to the western border of Treaty Nine. The unsettled Manitoba-Ontario boundary may have presented a problem for this proposed vast extension of Treaty Ten. See PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (14 and 22 February 1908). Semmens commission was given by Privy Council Order 1114, 12 May 1908.

35. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (14 May 1908).

36. Semmens had recommended a three dollar gratuity in 1907. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (17 October 1907). No reason was given for dropping the adhesion to Treaty Ten, however, the idea of a three or five dollar gratuity was accepted. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (29 May 1908).

37. For example, a copy of the adhesion used in 1910 is found in PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1A.

38. Ibid.

39. Semmens was forwarded a copy of Morris’s Treaties of Canada to use as his version of Treaty Five! Semmens instructions are found in PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (May 29, 1908).

40. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (29 May 1908). In June Semmens was summoned to Ottawa for instructions.

41. CSP, 1910, Indians Affairs, No. 27, p. 114.

42. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (27 April 1907).

43. Ibid.

44. Laird added: “The letter is mainly useful in showing that the Indians will have to be carefully and wisely dealt with in order to ensure the success of the negotiations.” PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (30 October 1907).

45. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (17 October 1907).

46. A. V. Thomas, “Bringing into Treaty the Indians of the Far Northern Wilds of Canada,” Toronto Star Weekly, 26 November 1910, p. 13. Ibid.

47. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (21 October 1909).

48. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (9 December 1908).

49. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1A (Report on 1910 treaty party).

50. Ibid.

51. This is apparent from Semmens’s diaries and reports of the treaty party, for example see PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (30 August 1908), as well, A.V. Thomas was a member of the treaty party in 1910 and his reports indicate the adhesions did not involve long drawn out talks. See Thomas, op. cit., p. 13.

52. These local white men included Sergeant O. D. Butler of the Royal North West Mounted Police, A. Flett of the HBC and Rev. Fox of the Church of England. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (30 August 1908).

53. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (4 September 1909).

54. Thomas, “Bringing into Treaty,” p. 13. Semmens was a little prone to paternalism, in the year of the last adhesion he declared: “It is equally pleasant to be able to bear testimony to the faithful determination of the Indian Department to keep faith with the Indians, to fulfill all promises made, to meet the wants of the sick and helpless poor, to correct all possible wrong, and save the wards of the government from both themselves and their enemies.” CSP, 1912, Indian Affairs, No. 27, p. 119.

55. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (Report on 1910 treaty party).

56. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (4 September 1909).

57. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (5 June 1908). At York Factory Semmens used the Rev. Fairies as an interpreter. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1A (Report on 1910 treaty party).

58. Thomas, “Bringing into Treaty,” p. 13.

59. Semmens’s commission involved three tasks: take adhesions of Non-Treaty Indians, negotiate adhesions with bands, and take scrip applications. This was performed during several months of summer travel and he was 60 years old in 1910. With respect to this incorrect adhesion, it is not clear how the Department handled this problem. While the Department’s criticism of Semmens error was harsh, they did not write to him until 12 May 1909; long after the adhesion had been approved by Privy Council Order 2662 (5 December 1909). See PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (12 May 1909).

60. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (17 May 1909).

61. In fact, sometimes Semmens’s diary suggests that the treaty was signed before the election, but then who signed the treaty? For details of the procedures see Semmens reports and diaries of the adhesions, for example, Island Lake: negotiations open at 10 a.m., treaty signed at 1 p.m., and elected Chief at 1:30 p.m. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (Report on 1909 treaty party). Clearly the talks did not begin with the election of Chief; see also Thomas, “Bringing into Treaty,” p. 13. The procedures may have been rushed, Thomas reported at Churchill that the election of Chief was a difficult task and that: “The Commissioner announced at length that the treaty party would take dinner, and that he expected them to make their choice by the time dinner was over. This they did, for I think they were anxious to receive the free meal from the King.” Thomas, “Bringing into Treaty,” p. 13.

62. It is hard to understand what Semmens was attempting to achieve with the smaller annuity for a group that had accepted him as a missionary in the 1870s. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (30 August 1908). Another one of Semmens errors was failing to change the wording in the adhesion from three to five dollars with respect to the gratuity. The next year the Nelson House Indians were given the difference in gratuity since Scott noted “Friction and misunderstanding might arise.” PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (20 October 1909).

63. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (21 October 1909).

64. McLean reported that they were satisfied with the answers and felt they understood the treaty better than before.

65. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249, 462, pt. 1 (21 October 1909).

66. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1A (22 May 1914).

67. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1A (6 July 1916). Between 7 July 1915 and 18 November 1918 this file includes correspondence on complaints from the York Factory band with respect to timber rights, the lack of a doctor during treaty payments as had been promised, and the control over treaty supplies. In fact, the Department referred back to Semmens to determine what he had promised during the negotiations.

68. N. O. Cote, “Grants to the Half-breeds of the Province of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, Comprising the Province of Saskatchewan and Alberta in Extinguishment of Indian Title 1870-1925” (Ottawa: Department of Interior, 1929, mimeographed), p. 29. This copy was found in the Public Archives of Canada, publish records of the Department of Interior, RG 15, Vol. 227.

69. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (28 February 1908). Lowes would later write that information concerning the pending surrender of aboriginal title had been leaked by an assistant commissioner. See United Church of Canada Archives. Alexander Sutherland Papers, Indian Missions 1905-1910, Box 7, H1 29, 2, Lowes to Sutherland, 31 March 1909. (Hereafter UCCA, Sutherland papers).

70. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (7 May 1980). McLean also passed on Lowe’s letter of February 28, 1908.

71. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (30 August 1908).

72. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (4 September 1909). Again Semmens did not follow instructions since he took scrip applications outside of the area ceded. PAC, RG 15, Vol. 1016, File 1,578,625, No. 1 (January 16, 1909).

73. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (6 October 1908). Some years later Semmens would recall that scrip buyers followed him on the 1908 trip. United Church of Canada Archives, Rev. John Semmens, personal papers, “Under the Northern Lights,” (Notes on Personal History by John Semmens, 1850-1921). p. 75. (Hereafter, UCCA, Semmens). In 1909, Lowes wrote that “Through the HBC stores they (scrip buyers) have already made advances to some on their scrip.” Lowes felt that the scrip buyers in 1908 and 1909 were fronting for the same interests. UCCA, Sutherland papers, Lowes to Sutherland, March 29, 1909.

74. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (6 October 1908).

75. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1A (24 October 1910).

76. It seems Semmens’ advice against taking scrip was not always well received because it “so provoked the scrip man present who promised to make things interesting for myself and the Rev. Mr. Fairies.” PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1A (24 October 1910).

77. Ibid.

78. Ingrams added: “Much ill-feeling has been engendered, by this action, against the Company, whom the Natives have always been taught to respect and honour because of its strict integrity in its dealing with them.” On this point, Hall replied and in his defense he stated: “It is true, as you state, that the Company is usually held in respect by the natives for the reason that it has not broken faith with them, but on the other hand, the natives at non-competitive points are well aware that the Company has, in most instances, taken every advantage of its opportunity to make profit without much consideration for the native.” Provincial Archives of Manitoba, HBCA, A. 12/FT MISCl273, ff. 41,43.

79. HBCA, A 12/FT MISCl273, fo. 47.

80. Ibid., fo. 36.

81. Ibid., fo. 47. A number of names are associated with scrip buying. In 1908, the Rev. Lowes mentions D. Flett, a mixed blood from Norway House, a Mr. Anderson, clerk, and C. C. Sinclair, Assistant Paymaster at Norway House (and Acting Chief Factor Norway House District) and a Mr. Laing, clerk (all with the HBC); and A.A. McDonald. R. H. Hall and H. S. Johnson both work for the HBC. Tremayne’s role is unclear since he appears to have alerted the London office of the HBC about Hall, although he had also accompanied C. C. Sinclair and H. Halcrow. Dr. Tyerman (Prince Albert), C. Thompson and Halcrow were tied in with the law firm Richards and Affeck, although Richards correspondence is on the letterhead of S. E. Richards, W. A. T. Sweatman, A. L. Kemp and W. P. Fillmore. Richards was the son of Mr. Justice Richards. Fillmore had been involved in scrip buying in the early 1900s. A Mr. Rousseau purchased scrip at York Factory for Thompson in 1909. Nanton wrote several letters on behalf of Hall in his capacity as a member of the HBC’s Canadian Committee, but used stationery from the law firm of Osler, Hammond and Nanton. Osier had been involved in purchasing scrip during the early scrip commissions. Clearly, the Treaty Five Adhesion scrip buying represented an interlocking of lawyers/financiers and HBC personnel. HBC stores could provide a means to advance goods against scrip applications.

82. Hall suggested that scrip buying was not necessarily profitable “as speculation in land, as the turnover is sometimes very slow, but it has the advantage that it occupies little time and is free from the worry which might attach to dealings in land involving large deferred payments.” Nanton suggested that “The speculators have not in all cases made money as the scrip can only be used in a certain way and sometimes has to be carried for a considerable time.” Richards also implied that expenses existed because of the “uncertainty of disposing of the same on account of the requirements by the Dominion Government as to personal location by the halfbreeds.” HBCA, A.12/FT MISC/273, ff. 44, 38, 48. The regulation which required owners of land scrip to locate and patent the land in a Dominion Land Office was circumvented by scrip speculators simply by hiring a local Native to pose as the original scrip owner.

83. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1 (28 February 1908).

84. PAC, RG 15, Vol. 1016, File 1,578,625, pt. 1 (12 September 1911).

85. HBCA, A.12/FT MISC/273 fo. 36.

86. Ibid., fo. 48.

87. Ibid., fo. 38.

88. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1A (24 October 1910).

89. PAC, RG 10, Vol. 4009, File 249,462, pt. 1A (4 September 1909).

90. UCCA, Semmens, p. 79.

91. This editorial was probably written by A. V. Thomas for the Manitoba Free Press, 26 October 1910.

Page revised: 20 April 2023