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Touchwood was rescinded 1940, followed by Marlboro in 1941.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
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
Metis Association of Alberta
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