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The Peoples, Their Places

Through the Mackenzie Basin: The Scrip Commission

Through The Mackenzie Basin Original Edition "The Half-breed Scrip Commission, whose duties began where the treaty work ended, was composed of Major Walker, a retired officer of the Royal North-West Mounted Police, who had seen much service in the Territories and was in command of the force present at the making of the Fort Carlton Treaty in 1876; and Mr. J.A. Coté, an experienced officer of the Land Department at Ottawa. The secretaries were Mr. J.F. Prudhomme, of St. Boniface, Manitoba, and the writer.

Our transport arrangements, from start to finish, had been placed entirely in the hands of a competent officer of the Hudson's Bay Company, Mr. H.B. Round, and old resident of Athabasca; and to the Commission was also annexed a young medical man, Dr. West, a native of Devonshire, England, whose services were appreciated in a region where doctors were almost unknown. But not the least important and effective constituent of the party was the detachment of the Royal North-West Mounted Police, which joined us at Edmonton, minus their horses, of course; picked men from a picked force; sterling fellows, whose tenacity and hard work in the tracking-harness did yeoman service in many a serious emergency. This detachment consisted of Inspector Snyder, Sergeant Anderson, Corporals Fitzgerald and McClelland and Constables McLaren, Lett, Burman, Lelonde, Burke, Vernon and Kerr. The conduct of these men, it is needless to say, was the admiration of all, and assisted materially.in the successful progress of the expedition.

Whilst it had been decided that the proposed adjustments should be effected, if possible, upon the same terms as the previous treaties, it was known that certain changes would be necessary owing to the peculiar topographic features of the country itself. For example, in much of it arable reserves, such as many of the tribes retained in the south, were unavailable, and special stipulations were necessary, in such case, so that there should be no inequality of treatment. But where good land could be had, a novel choice was offered, by which individual Indians, if they wished, could take their inalienable shares in severalty, rather than be subject to the 'band,' whereby many industrious Indians elsewhere had been greatly hampered in their efforts to improve their condition. But, barring such departures as these, the proposed treaties were to be effected, as I have said, according to precedent. The Commission, then, resting its arguments on the good faith and honour of the Government and people of Canada in the past, looked forward with confidence to a successful treaty in Athabasca."

Reprinted from Through the Mackenzie Basin: An Account of the Signing of Treaty No. 8 and the Scrip Commission, 1899 by Charles Mair.