St. Peter’s Reserve: Surrender, Land Dispute and Hay Marsh

Surrender, Land Dispute, and Hay Marsh: A Chronology  of Events.

In 1817 a Treaty was negotiated with the Salteaux Indians and they were granted land  running north from Sugar Point. This became the site of St. Peter’s Reserve. There were also many Cree Indians who made  their home in  this community. Soon, Anglican Missionaries took an interest  in the affairs of the Indians and  this settlement. The missionary who became the most  involved was Reverend Wlm. Cockran after  1825.  In 1832, he began the  first permanent  Indian Agricultural Settlement  at “Netley Creek” and by 1834 he moved  south  to the mouth of Cook’s Creek, where  the main settlement  was finally established and where, with the help of the St. Peters  community, an Indian Church, schools, along with farms, were established.

Rev.  John Smithhurst arrived  in 1839  and  continued  to work with  the  Indians. Rev. Cochran returned  to the settlement  and remained  till 1857.  Following Cockran, St. Peter’s was taken over  by the Rev. Abraham Cowley, who, until his death  in 1887, continued  the work of the “Mission”  assisted by Indian Clergymen,  teachers  and catachists.  Cowley,  it has been stated, was a staunch supporter and defender of the St. Peter’s  people.

During the 1860’s the Indians began  to fear  for the security of their  land  titles because of the pressure of others for cheap  land for settlement.  Much of the St. Peter’s district  lay unused and  it wasn’t long until  the Indian’s were being enticed  to sell their  land at bargain prices, by one method  or another,  and others started settling on Reserve  land.

After the 1869  lT0 “Resistance” and the  treaty agreements  of  1871, an even  larger non-Indian population started moving into  the vicinity of St. Peters Reserve  lands. It has also been said  that  the  Indian Administration was not as  it should be and very little guidance or concern  for their plight was in evidence during  this period. The  Indians were constantly  being tempted  by an encroaching  society  they could not withstand  or understand.  During  the 1870’s  the Indians amidst all  this confusing  influence  proceeded  to sell their land at an even greater pace.

The Salteaux and Crees became openly  antagonistic toward one another during  the 1870’s and the parish,  by 1876, was divided  in two. The formal  split  caused  the Reserve to alter  in appearance with  the southern half (Dynevor)  occupied by the Cree’s  basically with the northern  half  (Peguis) housing the Salteaux.  The years following  1876  the  Indian population  of the St. Peter’s Reserve steadily  declined and more and more non-Indian settlers were evident.

The Federal Gov’t during  this period appeared  not to provide adequate  legal guidance or administrative assistance  in connection with this wholesale erosion of Indian  land. It would  appear  that adequate  educational facilities  for  the St. Peter’s  children were being  ignored during  this time, as well.

The non-Indian  people  were an unsettling  influence  on the Reserve  and this soon caused  the Indian people  to drift away  for longer periods of hunting  and  fishing  time. They were  also working  at many manual  labor jobs and accepting  occupations  outside  of the reserve  setting.

During  the period from 1880  to 1884 was much ex- perimentation  in  municipal gov’t and local ad- ministration.  The Town of Selkirk  legally incorporated  in 1882,  the Town of East Selkirk  in 1883,  and by 1884 the Municipality of St. Andrews  and St. Clements  split their shared boundary  into two corporate  units  running up each  side of the Red River. The Reserve was eventually almost surrounded by corporate  authority  all competing for settlers, business  and  industry.

Mr. E. McColl,  Inspector  of Indian Agencies, and responsible  for the St. Peter’s  land, died in Oct. 1902, and was, it appeared,  replaced  by S.J. Jackson,  who paid his first official visit to St. Peters  the following  Feb. 1903. However,  by early April, 1903 an announcement cited the Rev. John Semmens  as McColl’s  replacement with HQ  to be  in Selkirk. The Rev. Mr. Semmens  filled the post  for about 2 years and was replaced  by Mr. J.O. Lewis.

During 1903 when  changes  were being made in the Indian Agency administration,  the St. Peters  local gov’t unit was undergoing  a stormy session, also. In 1902  the election of Chief and Councillors for St. Peter’s  had resulted in William  Prince being the successful candidate for Chief and  the Councillors  chosen were: W.D. Harper, Alex Cochrane  and William  Green.  However,  all was not running well. Charges of frequent intoxication and wrong doing  resulted  in an Order-in-Council  from Ottawa  (No. 1903) dismissing William  Prince  from  the office  of Chief of the St. Peter’s Band of Indians. It was reported at the  time  that  two Councillors also narrowly escaped dismissal.

In late Dec.  1903 the Indian Dept.  had  legally  installed John Prince  into the office of Chief. Mr. Prince was a life Councillor of  the Band. In 1905, the Archbishop of Rupert’s Land visited  the Parish of St. Peter’s and presided  over  the “Dynevor Church Jubilee” service on Sunday March 26, 1905. They  intended  to hold jubilee service  in Dec.  1904 but decided  to wait till the new “tower”  was completed.

The Archbishop dedicated  the new tower on March 26, 1905. Then  in April 1905,  the St. Peters Indians were putting  up many miles of wire fencing on their east side  river property to prevent trespassers  from  intruding and  to protect  their haylands. A great many of the kids at St. Peter’s were suffering  from whooping  cough  in June 1905,  and early  in July 1905 during “treaty payment” days, mounted  policemen and special  constables were evident and on hand  to run in transgressors  of the  law. Interest  in  treaty, compared to earlier years,  appeared  to be on the wane but  the elections were hotly contested. William Prince  got in as Chief while W.D. Harper and W.H. Prince were elected Councillors. Close behind, but not successful were: James Williams, Charles  Trindle, William Cook, John T. Stevenson  and Peter George. In late Jan. of 1906, the Chief and Council asked  the Indian Commissioner  that a new “Industrial  School”  be built on  the  reserve.

They offered a free  site and  land  for a farm.Meanwhile  the St. Andrews Munc. had been doing negotiating  for a road between Selkirk and Clandeboye, through  the reserve  and had agreed to pay $15.00 per acre. Councillor Leask and  the Reeve Sutherland  were not  too successful with  their bid and St. Peters Chief  and Council Band were not too receptive. Finally  in late Jan. 1906  the long standing  difficulty  between St. Andrews and St. Peter’s Council’s  regarding  the Road Allowance was partially settled. They met at the South St. Peter’s school  and  the subject  was  thoroughly discussed. The big pressure was put on by Commissioner McKenno, Indian Agent Lewis, Reeve Sutherland  and Leask from St. Andrews Munc. also Mayor McKenzie of Selkirk, M. O’Donohoe, MPP. As an inducement  for  the Indians  to relinquish more of their land,  the Dept.  of Indian Affairs had promised that  the sum realized would  be expended to build other roads and bridges within the reserve. The terms were $20/acre  for about 35 acres  for a toal of about $700.00  for  right of way. The road was to run paralleled to the CPR railway  line, and would  be about  8 miles  longacross  the reserve. By late 1906, the beginning  of the surrender was well underway.  The  “Commission”  to inquire  into  the  right of white settlers to own  lands within the St. Peters  reserve,  had been  in session for some  time and by early Feb.  1907 a large amount of evidence  had already  been gathered.

The Hon. Chief  Justice, Howell was conducting  the enquiry. Chief Justice Howell had  expressed  himself  in favor to claims for patents on lots on the west side of the river which were resided upon  in 1870  and seemed to agree that a sale of such occupied  land by a Treaty  Indian was valid if the sale took place before the year  1876. This  ruling l3gave great satisfaction  to a number  of claimants  such  as Murdoch Mclvor, whose claims were disallowed  by the Whitcher and McColl Commission  in 1885, on account of having  been bought  from a Treaty  Indian.

The “Howell” Commission  disallowed  several  claims for what were commonly  known as “Wood Lots” on  the east side of the river on account  of same not being  actually resided upon at  the time of transfer  in 1870. Justice Howell  ruled that deeds held at the time of transfer are not sufficient  without proof of residence  on  the lot at that date. This  ruling did bar out a considerable number of claims, and consequently caused considerable disap- pointment and dissatisfaction.  However, it was said  that many  “Wood Lot” claims for patents were allowed in the Parishes of St. Andrews and St. Clements. According  to Howell’s ruling, where a person owned and resided upon a lot at the time of the 1870  transfer and did not sell before  the year 1876,  and  he or (in  the case of death) his heirs  continued in treaty  after that date, the private title became extinguished  and vested  in the “Crown” for the use of the “Band” as part of the Reserve.

As  the enquiry  continued it was obvious that  the preceding ruling caused hardships  to many  persons who were  ignorant of the legal consequences  arising from continuing  treaty.  If they had been aware  of the consequences  they would have avoided  it by getting out of treaty rather than lose a valuable private holding. Notwithstanding  the Commissioner’s  expressed views as mentioned,  Peter Smith and other  treaty  Indians,  in the hope of a reconsideration,  came forward  and applied for their patents, proving  that  they had bought  them before  1870 and had resided on  them ever  since.

They also stated they had never  been warned  that  they would lose  their  lands by  taking “treaty”. It was probable many more similar claims were presented by other  treaty Indians. The big thing seemed  to be  the proof by each applicant that  they were really  living on the Lot  in question at the time of  transfer. By mid-July  1907,  the Howell Enquiry had disposed of quite a number  of cases and by the third week in Sept. 1907 a Treaty was conducted by which the St. Peters Band of Indians “surrendered”  their rights to the St.Peters  reserve  and  it was said  they had been allotted  a new reserve on Lake Winnipeg.

The conditions  of surrender  were  that  they got 2100 acres, which was  to be divided among  the members  of the band, at the  rate of 80 acres  to a family of 5. This new land would be surveyed and allotted by representatives  of the Chief and Council and  the Federal Gov’t. For  this they would  get patents  on making application  for same,  and  then  they could dispose of the property  or not as  they desired.  They also got 3000 acres of haylands, which would  be held by  the gov’t. in trust, for  the use of the band. As  the Indians sold  their patented  land  the hay  reserve  would be reduced  from time to time. The balance  of the  reserve, 2400  acres, would  be re-surveyed and sold by  the gov’t. by Public Auction.  The  Indians were  to get half of the principal of sale, and  the balance  funded  and put at  interest  for  their benefit.  They would also receive Treaty  payments  and rations  same as usual, which would  be always paid on  the l4 old Peguis  Treaty Grounds,  they were advised. A new reserve  of 75,000 acres was  to be selected  on the hores  of Lake Winnipeg  not  to be more  than 10 miles  of lake frontage.

Another  200 or 300 acres were  to be given at another point  for fishing station. The  Indians  were  toreceive assistance  in removing  to the new reserve  plus certain materials for  those  building houses. The  Indians would  also receive  a grant of $430  for each person. And this was paid over  to them  ($5000)  toward the end of Sept. 1907. This amount was  to be refunded  to the gov’t out of the first payment of the proceeds of the sale of lands. The terms of the Treaty were signed by: Chief William Henry Prince, Councillors W.D. Harper, Henry Prince, James Williams and John Prince, and witnessed by: Frank Pedley of Ottawa, Rev. John Semmens,  Dr. O.L Grain and E. Raynor. The  steamer “Chieftan” left Selkirk  (Sat. Oct. 5, 1907) with a group on board  to select a new  reserve on Lake Winnipeg  for the St. Peters Band of  Indians.  The selection was made  in tp. 26-2W, 26-1W, and parts  of 27- 2W, 27-lW, and 28-lW, making a total of some 75,000 acres.

A fishing  station  was chosen on  the West  side of Moose  Island, The new  reserve was on  the west side of Lake Winnipeg  on  the Fisher River,  about  128 miles  from Selkirk.  The selection was subject  to confirmation  by the Dominion Gov’t. The party who had gone out on the Chieftan were Inspector Rev. J. Semmens, R.D. Foley of the Dominion  Land Office, Dr. O.L Grain, E. Raynor, Chief Prince  and 2 Councilors. It is interesting  to note  in the Annual Report of the Dominion Indian Affairs Dept.  for the year ending March  31, 1907  that Rev.  John Semmens had  reported: “St. Peters  is too close to Selkirk and a very bad  in- fluence  to all Re:  intoxication – everyone  is delighted  to learn  that  the Commission  of Enquiry  appointed  by the Dominion Government  is settling the long dispute  existing between  the Indians,  the settlers,  and municipal Chief Justice H.M. Howell  assisted by two lawyers,  Indian  Commissioner and  the writer,  .I. Semmens. Satisfactory  settlement  will be reached,  it is thought, but indications  are  that St. Peters Reserve may be broken  up. Such solutions may in the long run be best  for all concerned.” Finally,  in April 1908,  it appeared  that St. Peters  land claims were settled. Chief Justice Howell had made his report  and recommendations.

Then  late Dec.  1908,  the sale of lands  in  the St. Peters Indian  Reserve  (by  the  Indian  Dept.) was held. About 100 people attended  the sale and sharp bidding was  in evidence.  Several blocks near St. Louis Station were sold at $10 to $14 per acre, other places  along the river were in demand and prices ranged  from $4 to $20 an acre. The principal  buyers  from outside points were H.L. Emmerett of Kansas,  J. Hyland of Winnipeg  and G.H. Funk of Iowa and W. Frank  from Winnipeg.  Local buyers were: E.F. Comber and F.E. Holloway. Taken  together, it was estimated that about $100,000 worth of land was disposed  of. Mr. Mollard of Stonewall was  the auctioneer.

Then the whole  surrender question became  very political. Geo. H. Bradbury,  the M.P.  for Selkirk, entered  into debate  by mid-Feb. 1909  in the House of Commons, about  the “Surrender  of  the St. Peters Reserve”. He had a petition from  the Indians objecting to  the  land they had been placed on at Fisher River and besides, Bradbury contended  “the  land (St. Peters) should not have passed  into  the hands of speculators  and friends of gov’t. at low cost” some 25,000 acres being disposed of. Hon. Frank Oliver readily admitted  that  the surrender was surrounded with peculiar conditions, “there had never been one  like it before, and he hoped  there would never be one  like  it again.

“Early  in March  1909 changes  in the Dept. of Indian Affairs by order-in-council decided  to virtually close  the branch offices and decentralize  the Dept. in Ottawa. Some staff were  transferred (S.J. Jackson went  to Lake Manitoba  and John Semmens  to north Lake Winnipeg) while others were moved to Ottawa  or given  3 months notice and dismissed. During  an adjourned  final Court of Revision meeting in  the Munc. of St. Clements  in May 1909,  the Court ordered  that  the rate of assessment  on all lands in the St. Peters  Indian Reserve  be reduced  to the same rate as adjoining parcels of land.

Therefore, Tp. 13-5E was assessed at $4 per acre, 14-5E at $3.50  per acre, 15-5E  and 15-6E at $3.00 an acre. The river lots from  117 to 140 inclusive were listed at $4.00  per acre while Lots  141  to 233 inclusive  were  assessed  at $4.50  an acre. Lots 234 to 246 were  the highest  rate at $5.00 per acre. Chief William Prince of St. Peters  left for Fisher River toward the end of July 1909 to take charge  of the new reserve  there.

The final duties of Chiefship at St. Peters was being  looked after by W.D. Harper. It is to be noted that  the voters list for the Munc. of St. Andrews  for 1909 had a big increase listed  for  the St. Peters  division. No doubt  this was owing  to the opening up of the reserve, which gave many of the Indian population  the privilege of municipal  franchise’ Early  in Feb. 1910,  the St. Peters Reserve  question was raised again on  the floor of the House of Commons  by Geo. H. Bradbury.  The Minister of the  Interior,  the Hon. Mr. Oliver entered into debate with Bradbury. Bradbury’s questions  centered around  an  investigation  into the surrender of lands  and  the  rules of surrender  that was followed.

Later,  in April of the same year, G.H. Bradbury  in a 4 hour  speech, moved a vote of censure (gov’t)  for alleged bribery and wrong doing on the part of the officials of the  Indian Dept. with the sale of the St. Peters Indian Reserve. He called the sale a “barefaced  swindle”  the whole method of alienation of the  lands which had enriched those who land grabbed was “illegal  from start to  finish’  ‘ the transaction  was a ‘ ‘breach of trust’  ‘ on part of  the gov’t  and  those who had “engineered  the sale” were guilty of “plain bribery”.  Bradbury  maintained  that by  this sale of about 48,000  acres of valuable  lands had been “filched”  from the Indians  of St. Peters Reserve and their properties had been gathered  in by “inside friends”  of the gov’t at a “fraction of their actual value”.

The Minister  of the Interior,  the Hon. Mr. Oliver,  in reply  to Bradbury spoke for 3 hours and during the vote on Bradbury’s motion,  it was soundly rejected. In the meantime,  the District Registrar  of  the Manitoba  Land Title Office,  in connection with several applications  for Torrens  Title  to lands  in the St. Peters Reserve  (purchased  from  treaty Indians since  the surrender, but prior  to  the  issue of patent). The Registrar had, after careful consideration of the law on  the subject, announced  a ruling  to the effect  that such “deeds are void”  not withstanding  the  fact of the deeds being made and delivered  prior  to the issue of the patent.

In the Town of Selkirk  the Board of Trade passed  a resolution  and widely distributed  it: “This Board  earnestly  deprecates the present agitation regarding  recent St. Peters  Indian Reserve  surrender  and sale, as being extremely detrimental  to this  town and neighborhood,  and strongly urges both the Dominion Gov’t and Province authorities  to do at once whatever may be necessary  for a speedy  termination  of the long delayed matter  in order  that settlement of these vacant lands and the building up of this district so essential as a business tributary of this town, may proceed without delay”.

A reply from the  Indian Dept.  stated  that  the Federal Dept.  had  issued  the patents to the Indians, and the issuing  of Torrens Titles  for any sales after  that were entirely  in the hands of the Provincial  authorities. During Treaty payments in the summer of l9l0 at St. Peters,  a number of Indians  from Fisher  Bay Reservation refused  to accept  their treaty money,  as they expected  to be paid  the full sum  realized on the sales of lands disposed of. Rev. John McDougall,  representing  the Dept. of the Interior, at  the end of Oct. 1910 met with the Chief men of the St. Peters Band of Indians on  the “Old Treaty Grounds” and heard their complaints  and charges in an effort to settle  the  “Indian  trouble  and  land question”.

Rev. John Semmens,  by the first week in Nov.  1910, had paid the St. Peter’s  Indians the third  instalment  on the  “half of the money”  due  them  for their property. In  the meantime, Rev. McDougall, who was representing  the Dept. of the Interior, Ottawa,  claimed the  investigation  (of the charges made by the  Indians  of the St. Peters Reserve)  revealed  that  the “Surrender of the St. Peters  Indian Reserve  had been brought about by illegal means” and that the Band had been “robbed in the transfer  of  land”. Rev. McDougall  had held the meeting in  the schoolhouse  on the  reserve,  nearly half of the male members  of the band were present at the time.

Mr. McDougall  would make a full report  at an early date. However, the report was not made public  and Geo. H. Bradbury, M.P. of Selkirk,  in the House  of Commons toward  the end of the year  (Dec.  l9l0) demanded  that  the term of reference  of McDougall’s  “secret verbal instructions”  be made public. Finally, in the spring of 1911,  the Manitoba Gov’t finding  that the Federal Gov’t would do nothing  towards “throwing the  light of day” upon  the “illegal surrender” of St. Peters Reserve, had ordered an enquiry by “Royal Commission” and some startling  evidence  was expected.

The members  of the Royal Commission  appointed  by the Manitoba  Gov’t to inquire  into the “alleged  illegal surrender  of this St. Peters Reserve” met on April 6,  l9l  I to make arrangements  for the opening of the  inquiry. H’ l5Whitla had been  appointed lawyer  for the Commission and the members were made up of Judges: Locke, Prud’homme  and Myers. The first meeting  was  in the Court Room in Winnipeg  on June 30,  l9ll, and was basically organizational  while the first  “hearing” would be scheduled later. Meanwhile, about 100  Indians attended  a meeting  at the Gilolo  schoolhouse  on April 18,  l9l l, called  by John Watson,  Indian Agent, for the purpose  of considering  the matter of “transferring the remainder of the Band to the new reserve on Fisher River  this summer”. The Ottawa authorities,  it was stated, were anxious that  the whole of the Band should migrate to the new reserve.

However, from the sentiments  expressed at the meeting  it was evident  that  the  Indians did not  intend  to move until after the Commission  appointed by  the Provincial Gov’t  had brought  in its  final  report  and conclusions. The Council  of the Town of Selkirk during their regular meeting  (April 24) passed a resolution  “this council  requests  the Provincial Gov’t  to have  transfer of title from  the Dominion Gov’t and also Provincial to make survey now re: The Great Hwy.  through St. Peters.” The Munc. of St. Andrews  passed  a similar motion.

On June 5, 1911 the Selkirk Board of Trade passed a resolution  urging upon the Dominion  Gov’t “to remedy present affairs and conditions Re St. Peters  Indian Reserve”, and “remove  certain doubts said  to exist regarding  the validity of the Surrender”  by passing  the necessary  legislation  at the next  session of Dominion Parliament. These  resolutions mentioned were presented  to the Hon. Frank Oliver, Minister  of the Interior when he opened  his Western  “Reciprocity”  tour with meeting  in Pearson’s  Hall in Selkirk on Wed.  June 7, l9ll. He arrived  in the afternoon  and was met by several Joint delegations  and a conference took place RE: St. Peters, Hon. Mr. Oliver said,  “the Dominion Gov’t had already done  its part  in full and he could not see any more action was called for” — he also said, “the Dominion Gov’t  in deciding  to transfer  the Indians  to Fisher River had acted in the best  interests of the  Indians and  the conditions,  and he could only ask the Board of Trade  to look for  the remedy  to those who had caused  the trouble”.

That evening, before one hundred or so people  in Pearson’s Hall, Mr. Oliver, although  his speech was to be basically  on reciprocity, devoted most all of his  time  re: St. Peters land questions and only  fleetingly  on  reciprocity. The Royal Commission held its first meeting  toward the end of July  l9ll,  in the schoolhouse  at St. Peters and then  transferred  to the Town Hall in Selkirk by Aug. 1911. where a heated discussion erupted as to the “Jurisdiction of the Commission”,  and much argument over  the printing  of a  letter  dated July 5, 1908 written by J.O. Lewis of Ottawa. Capt. Howell,  it appears  thought the letter contained information pertinent  to  the hearings,  so had  it printed in the Selkirk Weekly Record. The article  caused  quite a stir and almost brought the hearings  to a halt.

Toward  the  last week  in Oct.  l9ll, the Commission questioned Frank Pedley, Deputy Supt. General of Indian Affairs,  on the question of his authority  to accept l6 the surrender. He claimed he had  the power and was instructed by Hon. Frank Oliver, Minister of Interior, to proceed after Chief Justice Howell had  it all arranged, to meet  the Indians  and take Surrender. Other witnesses examined during Oct. l9ll were: Rev. John Semmens, John Watson and J.O. Lewis, all Indian Agents. The hearing was continued  and finally the news media were able  to report by Jan. 12,  l9l2  “The Surrender not Valid”.

The decision of Judges Locke and Prud’homme,  2 members  of the commission,  was  that  the surrender was “not binding or valid”.  Judge Myers,  3rd member  of the commission  took issue with his colleagues stating: “The members  of your Commission have  labored together  faithfully and with great harmony and the report signed by my colleague  is, to some  extent, the unanimous report of the Commissioners. We disagree  chiefly upon the question  of whether the “Statutory  formalities” described  in Sec. 49 were  complied with”.

n May 1912, the Selkirk Board of Trade were coordinating and circulating  the distribution of petitions “an adoption of a memorial  to the Dominion Gov’t asking that St. Peters Reserve  matter  be finally settled  in order that land now  tied up be thrown  open  for settlement”.  It was being widely  circulated  and largely signed  by the Town of Selkirk  and was causing a controversy  in town. Some interpreted  the petition as asking the gov’t to validate or legalize  the surrender  and  the Board of Trade  answered by saying  it “asks  that the question be settled in whatever manner  the gov’t  thinks best”. By June  l9l2Dr. Grain  had presented  the petition to Hon. Robt. Rogers, Minister of Interior.

It contained the signatures of the Selkirk  Board of Trade, Town  of Selkirk Council  and  the Councils of the Municipalities of St. Andrews and St. Clements plus several hundred individuals  “praying  for a speedy  settlement of the St. Peters  Reserve Case.  ” Selkirk citizens were claiming that this surrender  that had been held up a number of years, owing  to charges that  the Indians were unfairly dealt with, was retarding development in the Selkirk district,  and handicapping  its future. The Hon. Robt. Rogers  in his reply to the delegation pointed  out the gravity of his position as executor (executive guardian)  for the gov’t of the  Indians, who are the wards of the gov’t. There were over 50 in the delegation  and he promised  to make  an effort to settle without  further recourse to the courts.

Things appeared  to have  died down during  the summer of 1912,  but it was an uneasy quietness  around Selkirk. By Sept.  the residents  were well organized  into another Iarge deputation  and were ready  to meet Dr. W.J. Roche, Minister of the Interior, who was due to arrive in Winnipeg  about mid-S  ept. 1912. The Dominion Gov’t assigned  the task to the Hon. C.H. Doherty (Justice Minister) and by Sept. 1913 when he and  the Minister of Interior  headed  west, another large deputation  from Selkirk waited upon  them. Mayor Ross of Selkirk  and  the Selkirk Board of Trade spoke at length and Dr. Roche  listened patiently and  replied in conclusion: “It appears  there  are 3 courses  of action  open  to the Gov’t, .  To appoint another Commission, 2.J Cancellation  of the Surrender or 3. Passing of an Act of Parliament  next  session  legalizing the transfer”. By Oct. 1913, an order-in-council had been passed  by the Dominion Gov’t  transferring the St. Peters road allowance  to the Province of Manitoba  (prior to 1870 known as the Great Highway).  The  transfer was made under the agreement  between Dom./Prov.  when  the province entered  confederation, and which provided for the “turning  over of highways  to Manitoba when  the province  desired same”.

During  the spring of l9l4 there were many  rumors to the effect  that Judge Robson  had been appointed Commissioner  to Enquire  into the “individual titles of the St. Peter’s Indian Reserve,”  lands  in the vicinity of Selkirk.  Also, action was being taken  through  the Manitoba Courts to  “annul  the surrender of the Reserve”. The newspapers promised  “the most  spec tacular  legal battle known  in Canadian  Judiciary” while an editorial  from  the Selkirk Weekly Record  said,  “the people  of  this district are no  longer  in a mood  to be trifled with” and  “the poor  Indians  are not the only ones to be considered.

” Dispatches  from Ottawa  in early June 1914,  reported that  the St. Peters Reserve  Case would be  in the hands of the Dept.  of Justice  and be considered  by Dept. officials before  submitting  to the Exchequer Court for trial. The sittings were to be presided over by Mr. Justice Cassels and held  in Winnipeg. By  late Nov. 1914, subpoenas were issued  to key witnesses  and all holders  of titles,  calling upon  them  to defend  their claims  in the Courts of the Province. In Dec. 1914,  there were many cases of small  pox in the St. Peters settlement. The Indian Dept. took measures  to prevent  the spread of disease and a patrol of about  20 men was placed on  the road and river between Selkirk and St. Peters to stop anyone  from  that place coming into town. That Christmas  everything  was closed  in Selkirk, most  concerts postponed indefinitely.

There was about  30 cases  of small pox at the reserve  and about 7 reported cases in Selkirk. The disease had spread up to Grand Marais, Moose Creek and Snake  Island. The whole  area was being rigidly  quarantined  and Dr. O.I. Grain warned that a penalty of $50.00 would be enforced  if any person broke  the quarantine  rules by going in or out of the infected areas. Guards were placed outside of the doors  to ensure  strict adherance. During Jan. and Feb. l9l5 there were several  editorials urging a “speedy  settlement” of the St. Peters  Land Dispute,  “united action”,  “public meetings  urged” and more  local gov’t involvement. Early in March 1915,  the St. Clements Munc. Were considering closing  down  the St. Peters school “due  to the unsettled condition  of the St. Peters  lands and until the question was settled”  however,  they decided  to wait on the Minister of Education  to get his opinion  on the matter.

They decided that Patapun  S.D. receive only what was due  them and no more advances until  the land question dispute  was over. It was  the Council  of the Munc. of St. Clements  in Feb. 1915 that finally  took the  initiative  and worded  a strong resolution  in their corporate  capacity that stated, in part, “re: non-settlement  of the St. Peters Indian Reserve Question:  “great  injury  to the Munc. of St. Clements  in its corporate  capacity:  steadily  becoming more  acute and now almost  intolerable”.

“Land is less occupied, less cultivated, all roads,  ferries,  schools,  taxes and herd by- law etc. all suspended  until dispute  is settled’ “By  this  resolution  the Munc. of St’ Clements  in its corporate  capacity  hereby “urges  and demands” the quickest and most equitable and satisfactory mode of settlement  of the question, without further  delay, and that a memorial  in accordance with this  resolution be prepared and executed on behalf of Reeve and Sec.- Treas. of Municipality  under  the corporate  seal and that it be sent  to Selkirk, Munc. of St. Andrews with a view  to their  concurrences  and agreement and  that  this resolution or  joint memorial  be communicated  to  the Hon’ Minister of the  Interior for Canada, G.H. Bradbury, M’P., Minister  of Public Works for Manitoba, D.A. Ross, M.P. with a request  for  immediate action and reply. Also copies  to be sent to the Selkirk Record, which  paper  this Council  heartily commends  for its non-partizanship,  and public  spirited course  and attitude upon this question.

“The Selkirk Board of Trade  “concurred” and the Town  of Selkirk council  “thoroughly endorsed  and was fully  in sympathy with sentiments  expressed  therein”, while St. Andrews  endorsed  the St. Clements  resolution. The Selkirk Weekly Record said,  “we will continue  to agitate  for a settlement of St. Peters  land question until something  is done”. On March l, 1915, it was unanimously  decided, by a standing vote,  that a mass meeting of all citizens,  to discuss  the  “St. Peters Reserve Land Question”,  be held.

The public generally had but a faint conception of what  the St. Peters  land dispute hold-up  had cost the district in dollars and cents. An investigation  of the treasury  reports of the three  local gov’ts  revealed  the following  interesting  figures:  St. Andrews:  tax levied on reserve  lands  from 1909  to l9l4 (1907 and 1908 not  included)  totalled  some $20,918.  The amount collected  by St. Andrews was $9, 148. Outstanding to date was  (exclusive of penalties)  about $11,770. The munc. of St. Andrews had  redeemed  from  tax sale to the amount of about  $2,400 at an expense of 200/o plus many thousands of dollars  in legal costs. During  the above  period St. Andrews had expended on  reserve lands  $4,272 on schools,  $4,040 on roads and about $1433 on  ferries for a total of about $9,745.

The Town of Selkirk  had Lots I to 15, within  the  town limits. The  taxes on  these  properties  had been paid until about 1912 and by 1915 were  in arrears  in the amount of about $4,343.  The Council claimed that they were put to an added expense of some $35,000  because the Rolling Mills, which were  to locate at the north end (St. Peters) were  forced  to situate in the south end of town. According  to town authorities  the district had suffered 8 years of stagnation,  loss  in development,  loss  in existing taxes  levied as well as loss in anticipated  settlement growth. St. Clements Munc. had levied tax on  the reserve  land from 1909 to 1914  in the amount of $32,000  but only collected about  $3,000.  However,  St. Clements  had  been systematically paying out monies  for the school  districts, composed of reserve  lands,  for many years. They had l7been maintaining  the  ferries  and had done road work and other  services. During Council meetings  the  landowners of the St’ Peters land would  come  forward  in growing  numbers  and plead  their case  (arrears  of taxes) saying  the  failure to pay had been due to the Dominion Gov’t cancelling  the  titles and therefore delinquency  was  fully justified. They wanted Council  to allow  them discounts  and compromise.

Certain  lands  in the St. Peters Reserve  had been sold for  taxes  in the years  l9ll,  1912, and 1913  and afterwards they were redeemed owing to the unsettled condition of the  titles. St. Clements by July  l915′ resolved “that the amount  paid  to redeem  the land from tax sales be now  recharged  in the tax books. William Frank had purchased several  parcels as did A.C. Miller and Mr. Rosenfield. By Sept. 1915, St. Clements were making concessions  and compromises  regarding  the arrears of taxes on the St. Peters land. On March 29, 1915,  there was a Public Meeting  in Pearson’s Hall “protesting  against any further delays  in the Settlement of the St. Peters Reserve surrender”  and was largely attended. Every  phase of the St’ Peter’s  land question was discussed and many were given a chance  to express views. The meeting was of  the unanimous opinion  that “it  is not only expedient but  right and urgently necessary  that the suit now entered  in the Ex- chequer Court be withdrawn, and patents forthwith issued  for the lands”. St. Andrews Munc.  had a similar meeting to a packed house  at Dunara School  on April 3, 1915, and  resolutions were adopted.

April 5, saw  the Peguis Schoolhouse  full to overflowing. Within  a “stones  throw” of the old  treaty grounds where  the surrender was consumated, every phase of the question was discussed by vitally  interested people, within the St. Peters  parish. They also passed a motion of “speedy  settlement”. On April 9, 1915, a delegation  of 75 people  from Selkirk  journeyed  to Stonewall by special W.S. and L’W. Railway car to discuss the “St. Peters Question” and at the conclusion of the “hall meeting”, ha Stratton moved  a resolution which was carried  unanimously, urging  the “immediate confirmation of  the surrender”.

This was a planned  campaign by the Selkirk Board of Trade. Copies of all  the resolutions  from all  the meetings were sent to the House  of Commons and by April 19, about 40  to 50 replies  had been received.  One  reply  from Geo. H. Bradbury stated  “that  the matter would be settled  if the Purchaser  of the lands agreed to pay an additional  $l per acre payment.”However,  this caused some  debate and according  to  the news  releases,  the gov’t were negotiating  about the time frame  of the $l per acre payment from l0  years  retro-active  to  5  annual payments.

This compromise took some  time and  it wasn’t until  late  in Feb.  l9l6 that Selkirk  received news  that: On Feb. 18, 1916 by resolution  placed  on the order paper by Hon. Dr. Roche,  holders  of St’ Peters lands, purchased at the time of the sale will pay $l per acre more than at the price  they secured  them. On the payment of this extra money patents will be  issued  to the purchaser.

This agreement  was reached  by negotiation between  the parties  concerned, the purchasers  and  the Dominion Gov’t. It means many  thousand dollars more for the l8 original holder  of the property  and a secure valid title  for the purchaser.  It was reported  that about $40,000 more should  be paid into  the  fund for the benefit of the members of the St. Peters Band, as a result of this $l extra payment  Per acre. In the House of Commons,  during  the introduction  of the motion, Dr. Roche mentioned,  “while he had no doubt  that  the Surrender was  illegal and  fraudulent,  the proposition now  is about best terms  possible  to obtain  at this late date without injuring  innocent parties”.

The Hon. Arthur Meighen was of the opinion  that, “set- tlement was necessary in interests of the  individual  who had acquired  land  from  those who had  secured them  at the first sale” and that “gov’t still of the opinion  that lands were  illegally obtained  in 1906/07  but compromise settlement  preferrable  to long and expensive litigation which would end  in the privy council”‘ He concluded by saying, “a commission  of Judges  in Manitoba  had  in- vestigated the Surrender  and the  final  report  ruled  that the sale was  illegal and no titles should be given  the owners who had obtained  the  land. Present action would in a measure  do justice  to the  Indians without hardship to innocent  parties who have since  become  interested  in  the land”. By March  18, 1916,  the “St. Peters Bill” had received 3rd reading in the Senate. The only procedure  needed now was the assent of the Governor-General.  Some confusion  had existed earlier when the clause “$l  per acre additional should be paid” was struck out. This meant  that the whole  question  practically  reverted back to its former position of unsettlement’ The Bill was corrected  by adding  the $l clause back in, and again introduced, and  then  it was give 3rd reading by the House.

The Munc. of St. Clements  had been working and compromising  with  the St. Peters  landowners  for several years on their arrears of taxes and had granted  them rebates  as well as a small  percentage  per annum rather than allow  the statutory  penalties  on  the arrears  to mount ever-higher. By Dec.  1916 they granted  another  l09o rebate  if the arrears could be cleared off before  the end of Feb.  1917 and  the Sec.-Treas. was accepting  the 1916 taxes  regardless  of the arrears  ‘ Eventually,  the  land was being subdivided  into smaller parcels and ownership changed hands many  times’ An advertisement by the spring of 1918, placed  in the newspaper by mr. G.H. Fox of Selkirk, stated  that he was commissioned to sell 2000 acres  in St. Peters  (parcels  of 40 acres up to 200 acres).  The ad went on to read that preference  would be given to bonafide settlers, as  it was the wish of the owners  to have  as much  land  as possible under  cultivation  that season. Another notice was placed  in the Selkirk Weekly Record dated April 5, l9l8 advertising  Tenders  to be  in by Noon April24,1918.  “For grazing Privileges” and a 5 year  lease of haylands  and swamp  situated on  the St. Peters  Indian Reserve  (about 10,000  acres) (portions flooded).

The successful tender had to  put up a satisfactory  fence for  the protection of the land  leased. They would also have  to furnish  (free of charge) enough hay to the Indians still residing  in the reserve and who were entitled  to same  for their own use. The notice camefrom Ottawa  and Mr. F.W.R. Colcleugh and Duncan Scott were responsible  for  the tender. This particular notice caused quite a stir in  St. Clements and they wrote  to the Hon. A. Meighan  with copies  to their own Tom Hay (MP) pointing out  that  they would be creating a monopoly by leasing all of the  lands to one  interest. Further, many  ratepayers  in  the past had been  largely dependent for their  supply  of hay from the Indians  on  these  lands.  If the supply was cut off  it would cause  serious hardship. St. Clements  council  believed  the gov’t should have adopted a plan in the best  interests  of the  Indians and yet consider  the settlers, as rvell.  If one interest  were  to receive  the hay privilege it would  be an injustice  to local people and profits would  go to private concern  instead of our Indians.

Because of the war demands  for increased  food, and stock production, council believed  the gov’t should have encouraged concerns  to meet these  demands.  Council  urged  the gov’t of Canada  to find other means  of disposing  of the hay and grazing  privileges on the St. Peters  land,  so  that settlers  may obtain permits for hay and grazing  to meet their requirements or that gov’t should sell  the  land  in small  parcels  to actual residents and  farmers in the area. Benson Bros. of Selkirk shortly after (June  1918) advertised  for tenders on “putting up hay  in the St. Peters Reserve”  and on  the basis of 35 tons for  them (Bensons)  for every 100 tons put up by  the haymaker.

These advertisements  appeared  regularly  for the next  few years  covering  the term of the  5 year  lease. Then in Jan. 1923, St. Clements adopted  the “UFM” resolution which  urged  the Dominion  Gov’t  to purchase that part of the  Indian Reserve  that was leased  to Benson Bros.  (lease was  to expire on May 5, 1923). They suggested  that this land be sold only  to resident  farmers of the district to increase  their  livestock  production  and encourage  the  fullest  development which was at  that time decreasing  at an alarming rate during  the 5 year lease  to private  speculators. Council  urged the Gov’t  to survey the  land and sell by auction to resident settlers, only,  onextended  terms of payment.

The controversy  over  the St. Peters Hay Lands was on- going  and not really settled  for many years. Letters to  the Dominion Gov’t and  the Dept. of Indian Affairs  flew back and forward between St. Clements  and Ottawa with frequent regularity. Petitions were presented  to Council annually  requesting  the sale of the hay marsh and  just as many petitions  requesting  gov’t not  to sell. On Feb. 14, 1939 Council sent a resolution  to the Dominion Gov’t  requesting  that  the St. Peters Hay Marsh be “not sold”  and  that  the gov’t continue  to give hay permits  to the  residents  as they had done  in  the past. St. Clements wanted the permits  to allow about 25  tons  to each  farmer.

This would allow small  land owners who were unable  to obtain  enough hay for  their cattle to manage during  a time when  it was hard  to remain off the municipal relief  rolls of St. Clements.  In 1939, a certain business man still had a large grazing  lease on the St. Peters Marsh and was marketing  several  hundreds  of tons of hay and at least one other  farmer was receiving  a permit  for about 480 acres  of hayland  and was pasturing about  400 head of cattle on the Marsh all year.

The  two samples  cited caused hardships to others who needed  the hay and grazing  space  and were not shy in voicing their complaints  to council. By 1945,  it appeared  the Federal Gov’t were  seriously considering the  sale of the St. Peters  Indian Reserve  land (Hay Marsh)  in small parcels.  St. Clements Council urged the Dept. of Indian Affairs  to survey carefully  because roads  could not be built along the Dominion Gov’t Road Allowances  due  to low  lying  swamp  and marsh  blocking same at numerous  points.

The existing  trails across  the marsh  followed high ground without  regard for  the actual Road Allowances.  They warned Ottawa that any sale of property  carried out before providing  adequate ingress and egress would be certain  to breed nothing but more discontent.

Correspondence  in this regard was frequent and  in July 1947,  the Lands Branch of the Dept. of Natural Resources  advised  the Council  of St. Clements that  they were considering  the question  of offering  for sale about  five quarter sections of  the St. Peters  hay lands located at the south end. St. Clements,  by resolution, reminded  them “that council petition  the Provincial Gov’t that when  provincial lands  known  as  the St. Peters Marsh are sold  that provision for road allowances  be made  for access  to each parcel on  the highest  portion of the lands’  ‘ . The province assured Council  that all sale  lands would provide  regular  road allowance  and, as a general rule, would  be passable  during  haying season,  thus enabling farmers  from  the south  to reach haylands  to the north. Furthermore,  the province  promised  to  survey  the existing  trail which passed from south  to north  through SE l6-15-5E. With  this  trail surveyed and  the existing road allowance which  entered  the haylands to the north, the province  felt  this would  take  care of the situation.

On Sept. 27,1947 at the Libau Hall  in Libau, Man. The following  lands situated  in  the St. Peters  Indian Reserve No. I were offered  for sale by public auction at upset prices  that were made known  at  the time of the sale.  (It  is interesting to note  that St. Clements had arrived at a price toward the end of May 1947  that listed Parcels  l-7 at $15.00  Per acre, Parcels 8-21 at $5.00  per acre and parcels 22-26 at $10.00  per acre).
Parcel 1 W  I l2 of NW I I 4 of l9-15-6E  (80 acres).
Parcel 2   E l12 of NW  l/4 of 19-15-6E  (except  a 2 acre parcel, 78 acres).
Parcel 3  Pt. ofSW l/4of 19-15-68(125  acres).
Parcel 4  W I /2 of NW I /4 of l8-15-6E  (80 acres).
Parcel 5  W 40 acres  of the E l12of NW  l/4 of l8- I 5-68  (40 acres)
Parcel 6  W ll2of SW l/4 of l8-15-68  (80acres)
Parcel 7  W 55.5 acres ofE ll2 of SW l/4 of 18-15-6E (55  I /2 acres)
Parcel 8  LSD 15, Sec. 36-14-58  (40 acres)
Parcel 9  LSD 9, Sec. 36-14-5E  (40 acres)
Parcel 10  LSD 13, Sec. 31-14-6E  (40 acres)
Parcel 11  LSD  I l, Sec. 3l-14-6E  (40 acres)
Parcel 12  LSD 9, Sec. 3l-14-68  (40 acres)
Parcel 13  LSD 7, Sec. 3l-14-6E  (40 acres)
Parcel 14  LSD 16, (frl) 23-14-58  (10 acres)
Parcel 15  LSD  9 and  l0 Sec. l3-14-5E  (80 acres)
Parcel 16  LSD I I and l2 Sec. l3-14-5E  (80 acres)
Parcel 17  LSD  l3 and 14 Sec.  13-14-5E  (80 acres)
Parcel 18  LSD  l5 and  l6 Sec.  l3-14-5E  (80 acres)
Parcel 19 LSD  5 Sec.  l8-14-6E  (40acres)
Parcel 20 LSD 4 Sec.  l8-14-6E  (8 acres)
Parcel 21 Part LSD 12, Sec.  l7-14-68  (30 acres)
Parcel 22 River Lot 159 except  5 acre parcel  (20  l12 acres)
Parcel 23 River Lot 167 except Northerly  and 46links  in width  (42.84 acres)
Parcel 24 River Lot 168 except  the most southerly  3chains and 34  links  in width  (41.68 acres)
Parcel 25 River Lot 169  (44.33 acres)
Parcel 26 River Lot 170 except  those parcels at the west end shown on plan  in name Jacob Cook  and  the School  Lot (32.34 acres).
River Lot 167 except Northerly  3 chains and 46links  in width  (42.84 acres)

Hugh and Jacob Jonasson manually adjusting the 8 Bottom Plows.

Hugh and Jacob Jonasson manually adjusting the 8 Bottom Plows.

Plowing virgin soil St. Peters Marsh.
River Lot 168 except  the most southerly  3 chains and 34  links  in width  (41.68 acres)
River Lot 169  (44.33 acres) River Lot 170 except  those parcels at the west end shown on plan  in name Jacob Cook  and  the School  Lot (32.34 acres)LSD 4 Sec.  l8-14-6E  (8 acres)
Part LSD 12, Sec.  l7-14-68  (30 acres)
River Lot 159 except  5 acre parcel  (20  l12 acres)
River Lot 167 except Northerly  3 chains and 46links  in width  (42.84 acres)
River Lot 168 except  the most southerly  3 chains and 34  links  in width  (41.68 acres)
River Lot 169  (44.33 acres)
River Lot 170 except  those parcels at the west end shown on plan  in name Jacob Cook  and  the School  Lot (32.34 acres). Hugh and Jacob Jonasson manually adjusting  the 8 Bottom Plows. Plowing virgin soil St. Peters Marsh. The terms of sale were cash or one-fifth cash and  the balance  in four equal, consecutive annual payments  at 590 interest. Mr. R.A. Hoey was  the Director in charge of the Indian Affair Branch, Ottawa,  at the time of the sale. St. Clements added  the names of the new owners  to
their assessment rolls and  taxes  cornmenced effective January 1 ,1948.

Submitted by slh

Posted in Indigenous Communities.