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The Métis in Western Canada: O-Tee-Paym-Soo-Wuk

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The BeginningsThe People and Their CommunitiesCulture and Lifeways
The Métis Betterment Act (1938)

The Métis Population Betterment Act, later changed to Métis Betterment Act, was enacted by the Province of Alberta in 1938. A joint Métis and government committee identified the lands for Métis settlement. Twelve Métis settlements were set aside: Big Prairie (Peavine); Caslan (south of Lac La Biche); Cold Lake; East Prairie (south of Lesser Slave Lake); Elizabeth (east of Elk Point); Fishing Lake; Gift Lake (or Utikuma); Kikino (originally called Beaver River or Goldfish Lake); Paddle Prairie (or Keg River); Touchwood; Marlboro; Wolf Lake (north of Bonnyville).

There was the initial vision that the Métis, and a minister for the Crown, would work together to form programs that would better the lives of the settlement Métis. Hunting and trapping rights on settlement lands could be enacted by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. There was also a framework for the creation of settlement associations that had the authority to establish criteria and conditions for settlement membership, constitutions, elections, board meetings and other issues pertaining to the management of the settlements.

In 1940, there were significant changes to the Act that increased government bureaucracy and control, which in effect reduced Métis decision-making and involvement. Namely, the province retained the right to set conditions for occupation, land development and use of the settlements resources, such as timber.

During the 1940s, the settlement Métis received financial relief in return for building roads, cutting timber, preparing sites and constructing their homes and schools. Besides farming, Métis settlements in the Peace River area also benefited from job opportunities in commercial fishing and with the construction of the provincial highway. North eastern Métis settlements relied more on hunting and fishing occupations. Due to a sparse population and poor returns on fishing and hunting, at Métis requests, some settlements were deemed unsuitable. Touchwood was rescinded 1940, followed by Marlboro in 1941. Many of these residents moved to the Keg River Settlement/Colony (Paddle Prairie) and changed their occupations to agriculture.

Another major change to the Métis Betterment Act occurred in 1952. Powers that let the individual Métis settlement associations provide for the elections of five settlement board members and their authority to control their business affairs were removed. The Province wanted their minister to appoint two board members and a supervisor. The appointed supervisor was a local and was considered to be the ‘chair.’ Members of the settlement associations would be allowed to elect two members to the settlement board.

With its declining population, Cold Lake rescinded its settlement status in 1956; followed by Wolf Lake four years later. Many of the former residents of Wolf Lake relocated to other Métis settlements. By 1960, Alberta's eight Métis settlements were and remain: Buffalo Lake; East Prairie; Elizabeth; Fishing Lake; Gift Lake; Kikino; Paddle Prairie; Peavine (Big Prairie).

In 1972, because of continual strain between the Métis settlements and the provincial government, a Task Force was established to examine Métis legislation. The Métis settlements were in serious financial difficulty because of investment capital shortages. The Task Force recommended that a form of local government among the settlements should be established so the residents could directly tackle and solve their own economic development. Another recommendation by the Task Force was that the boundaries between the settlements and the rest of the province should be removed. The latter recommendation drove the eight Métis settlement associations to form the Alberta Federation of Métis Settlements.

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Liens Rapides

Metis Association of Alberta (1932)

Ewing Commission (1934-1936)

The Metis Betterment Act (1938)

The Alberta Federation of Metis Settlements Formed (1973)

MacEwan Joint Metis-Government Committee

Resolution 18 Incorporated (1985)

Metis Settlements Accord Adopted (1989)

Metis Settlements General Council

Metis Rights: Regina vs. Powley

Who Are Metis?

Harvesting Rights for Alberta's Metis

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