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Since the inauguration of the North-West Half-Breed Scrip Commission in 1885, Métis residents of the North-West Territories had made frequent representations to the federal government pointing out that children born between the 15th of July, 1870, and the commencement of the 1885 Commission's sittings were entitled to the same treatment as those born prior to 15th July, 1870 (under the Dominion Lands Act only Métis born before 15 July, 1870, were entitled to scrip). The 15th of July, 1870, was originally selected by the government as the cut-off date applicable to Métis land claims, since this was the day on which Rupert's Land passed into the custody of the Dominion of Canada. However, the Métis argued that their land rights were not affected by this transfer. Whatever territorial rights they had by virtue of their "Indian blood" prior to the transfer, also existed after the transfer. The first interference with such rights would only occur when a surrender was effected of the territory by the Indians.
The Métis claim was given credence by the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories when it was officially endorsed in resolutions passed by the Assembly in 1887, 1888, and 1889 (correspondence surrounding the resolution can be found in RG 15, vol. 401, file 103,598, "Resolutions passed by the North-West Council on 15 December [1885-1891]"). A final resolution passed on 31 August, 1894 was dispatched to the Governor-General-in-Council and was formerly acknowledged in Order-in-Council, P.C. 503J, 16 October, 1894. Since the federal government was now wanting to negotiate the surrender of the District of Athabasca and adjoining country with the Indians (Treaty 8), department officials feared that the Métis would use their influence with the Athabascans to make a settlement extremely difficult, unless their request was recognized. Consequently, in 1899 the Minister of the Interior personally investigated the matter, and prudently came to the conclusion that the Métis claim was well founded. "... [H]e is of opinion that Indian and Half-Breed rights are co-existent and should properly be extinguished concurrently. When Half-Breed rights are not so extinguished, they must, he [the Minister] considers, be held to exist after the extinguishment of the Indian title and up to such time as action is duly taken for their extinguishment" (P.C. 918, 6 May, 1899, p. 2).
Accordingly, the Dominion Lands Act, which provided that only Métis residents of the North-West Territories born previous to the 15th of July, 1870, were entitled to participate in the distribution of land grants in connection with the extinguishment of their aboriginal title, was amended on 11 August, 1899 (i.e., Revised Statutes of Canada, 1886, c. 54, s. 90, par. f, was amended by 62-63 Vic., c. 16, s. 4). The revision made it possible for the federal government to issue grant lands in satisfaction of Métis claims arising out of the extinguishment of their Indian title, without any restrictions as to the date of birth of the Métis claimant. All Métis who were bona fide residents of the territory, up to the time that action was taken for the extinguishment of their land rights, were now eligible for scrip. In other words, the date governing the residence of the claimants was to be, in future, that of the Indian treaty.
Since it was now obvious that "...while differing in degree, Indian and Half-Breed rights in an unceded territory must be co-existent, and should properly be extinguished at the same time," (P.C. 918, 6 May, 1899, p. 1.) the federal government passed Order-in-Council P.C. 918, on the 6th of May, 1899. Under this authority, the Department of the Interior was obliged to establish a Commission to negotiate the claims of the Métis residing in the territory which was to be surrendered by the Indians under Treaty 8. This policy of negotiating scrip claims at the same time as treaty settlements were being made with the Indians would be followed by all further scrip Commissions. The Treaty 8 Commission was "to act under the direction of the Hon. David Laird, Chairman of the Indian Commission" (P.C. 918, 6 May, 1899, p. 3). It was authorized to issue scrip redeemable in land, to each Métis applicant on proof of residence, to the extent of $240, or at the option of the claimant, 240 acres of land of a class open to homestead entry. For the first time in the history of the scrip commissions, no distinction was to be made in the amounts to be received by Métis children and heads of families. All claims, no matter the age or relationship of the individual, were to be satisfied by an issue of scrip for $240 or 240 acres. Once again, this precedent would be followed by all future Commissions.
The Treaty 8 Commission was also given the authority to investigate Métis claims outside the Athabasca District, in those areas of the North-West Territories already ceded. Any resident of the North-West Territories born between the 15th of July, 1870 and the end of 1885, could theoretically make their representation before the Commissioners, and would be entitled to an issue of scrip redeemable in land to the extent of $240, or to scrip for 240 acres of land of a class open to homestead entry (P.C. 918, 6 May, 1899, p. 2). However, in reality the sittings held by the Treaty 8 Commissioners were limited to the treaty area and the number of claims accepted by the Commission from outside the treaty area were minimal.
29 May, 1899 to 23 September, 1899
Order-in-Council: P.C. 918, 6 May, 1899; Statutes: 62-63 Vic., c. 16, s. 4, 1899
James Walker and Joseph A. Coté, Commissioners (P.C. 918, 6 May, 1899); Charles Mair and J.F. Prudhomme, clerks (P.C. 1094, 25 May, 1899)
Final report and operational records of the Commission can be found in RG 15, Series D II 1, vol. 771, file 518158, title: "James A. Walker, J.A. Coté, Half-Breed Commission for Athabasca and Area [1899-1954]"
Lesser Slave Lake, Peace River Crossing, Fort Dunvegan, Wolverine Point, Fort Vermilion, Fort Chipewyan, Smith's Landing, Fort McMurray, Lake Wabascaw, Pelican Portage, Grand Rapids, Calling River Portage, Athabasca Landing, and Wapiscan.
A total of 1,243 claims were investigated; 1,195 money scrip certificates issued for $286,800 and 48 land scrip certificates issued for 11,520 acres.