HomeNorthwest Scrip ApplicationThe Distribution of Scrip

The Distribution of Scrip

Further Information on Northwest “Half-breed” Scrip

Scrip is a term used to describe “a certificate, voucher, etc. establishing the bearer’s right to something.”[1] Section 125 of the Dominion Lands Act, 1879, made provision to:

Satisfy any claims existing in connection with the extinguishment of the Indian title, preferred by half-breeds resident in the North-West Territories outside of the limits of Manitoba, on the fifteenth day of July, one thousand eight hundred and seventy, by granting land to such persons, to such extent and on such terms and conditions as may be deemed expedient.[2]

The government determined that the “satisfaction” of Métis claims would best be achieved through the distribution of scrip. In 1883, Section 125 of the Dominion Lands Act was amended to include Métis people who had resided in the Northwest Territories prior to 15 July 1870.[3] On 11 August 1899, the Act was again amended, this time to recognize the claims of Métis individuals born between 15 July 1870 and 31 December 1885.

The first Half-breed Scrip Commission occurred in 1885 and dealt with the claims of Métis people who, on or before 15 July 1870, were living in territory that had since been ceded to the government by treaties with First Nations. Ten other scrip commissions followed: 1886 (continuation of 1885 work); 1887 (completion of 1885 work); 1889 (claims within the territory of the Treaty Six adhesion); 1899 (claims within the territory of Treaty Eight); 1900 (claims of Métis born in the North West Territories between 15 July 1870 and 31 December 1885); 1901 (claims of Métis resident in the portion of Manitoba outside its original boundaries, and the remaining claims in the Northwest); 1906-07 (claims within the territory of Treaty Ten); 1908-10 (claims within the territory of the Treaty Five adhesion) and 1921 (claims within the territory of Treaty No. 11).[4] In addition to the formal commissions, which visited communities to take applications, the Department of the Interior received many Métis scrip applications through Dominion Lands Agents, who were authorized to receive applications on behalf of the government until 1894. Occasionally, scrip applications would also be sent to the Department of the Interior through lawyers or other agents, who claimed to be representing Métis individuals who, for one reason or another, had not applied through regular channels.

The Government of Canada offered two types of scrip to Métis claimants: land scrip and money scrip. Scrip was issued in coupons, or pieces of paper generated by the government that resembled paper money and could be redeemed at a Dominion Lands Office. Scrip could only be applied toward the purchase of or payment for Dominion Lands in the surveyed townships of the Prairie Provinces. Land scrip could be exchanged, at par, for acres of Dominion Lands whereas Money scrip was issued in dollar units and could be used at face value towards the purchase of Dominion Lands. Land scrip coupons bore the name of the grantee, whereas money scrip coupons generally did not. The entire scrip process by which a piece of paper was converted into land created a large and exhaustive paper trail.

Examples of Scrip Coupons:

Land Scrip Coupon

Land Scrip Coupon A3106 (Joseph Delorme, heir of Urbain Delorme), SOURCE: LAC RG 15, vol. 1416.

Money Scrip Coupon

Money Scrip Coupon A2615, SOURCE: LAC RG 15, vol. 1397.

[1] “Scrip,” Gage Canadian Concise Dictionary (Scarborough: Thomson Nelson 2001) p. 772.

[2] Cote, “Administration of Dominion Lands,” p. 4.

[3] Cote, “Administration of Dominion Lands,” p. 4.

[4] Cote, “Administration of Dominion Lands,” pp. 4-18.