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parts of the Manitoba Act that dealt with Métis land rights and the
extinguishment of Aboriginal title were Section 31 (which set aside one
million four hundred thousand acres to be divided between the children
of the Métis families), and Section 32, which sought to confirm title to
those people who occupied land in Manitoba, whether freehold, by grant
from the HBC or by right of possession. This section confirmed
possession by the "original white settlers" which included the European
fathers of the Métis and the Selkirk settlers, as well as the Métis
"heads of families."
The amount of land set aside was based on a crude census of the
province in 1870, in which the Métis population of Manitoba, at the time
of the transfer, was thought not to exceed 10,000. The census was
undertaken by Lieutenant Governor Archibald, and was recorded in his
dispatch to the Secretary of State on 26 May, 1870.
It was not until the spring of 1875 that the federal government had
even decided upon the process it would use when identifying those
individuals who would be eligible for a claim under section 31 of the
Manitoba Act. Arguing that the investigation of several thousand
claims "... in addition to the regular business of the office, would be
quite out of the power of the agent in charge [of the Dominion Lands
Office in Winnipeg]..." John M. Machar, barrister in the City of
Kingston, Ontario, and Matthew Ryan, barrister in the City of Montreal,
Quebec, were appointed as Commissioners to administer the allotment of
lands in the 1,400,000-acre reserve to Métis children and the
distribution of scrip to Métis heads of families.
Machar and Ryan completed their task the following year. Their report
outlining the methods used, and their recommendations for the issue of
Letters Patents for lands allotted to Métis children, and the
distribution of scrip to Métis heads of families was formerly adopted
and approved as Order-in-Council, P.C. 128 1/2, 23 March, 1876. Machar
and Ryan named 5,088 persons who were entitled to participate in the
distribution of the 1,400,000-acre reserve.