The goal of LIRR is to facilitate educational opportunities for the congregation in relation to Indigenous history and reconciliation.
Scrip is obsolete now and virtually unknown to most Canadians today. But it’s still a household word to the Metis. Scrip was a coupon that could be redeemed for money or land. Money scrip was usually issued in the amount of $80, $160, or $240. Land scrip was a coupon that, once cashed in, was supposed to issue to the bearer a plot of land of 80, 160, or 240 acres.
Though a scrip coupon felt and looked like a large banknote, it did more than provide money or land. Scrip was a reward, a pacifier and an eraser. Soldiers were rewarded for their service with scrip. The government used scrip to pacify the Metis and to erase their claim to Aboriginal title. The Metis scrip process was a rotten deal. And everyone knew it.
Treaties were the wholesale transfer of large swaths of land to the Crown from First Nations lands. Scrip was meant to accomplish the same thing, only it was done on an individual basis, because the Crown did not accept the existence of a Metis collective with title and rights.
The scrip application process was intimidating. The scrip commissioners set up their office in a large tent. Two Mounties stood on each side of the tent opening. The Metis had to enter the tent by walking through a police gate. The Mounties made an impression on the Metis just as they were meant to. The Mounties were the gatekeepers of the process, a none-too-subtle display of Canadian force.
The application process was also an administrative nightmare. Fraudsters, speculators, priests, lawyers and bank agents all took advantage of identity, language, geographic and literacy difficulties to obtain scrip. The speculators travelled with the scrip commission and were virtually part of the official party.
In attempting to maintain the appearance that the scrip commission was independent, most of the speculators were not allowed into the commission tent. The priest however had a place inside the tent and was in a privileged position to obtain scrip certificates of entitlement. “Obtain” is the appropriate word because, unlike the other speculators who at least paid something for the scrip certificate, the priests used their influence to have it passed over to them gratis.
Once the commissioner issued the certificate, the Metis applicants had to walk by the table where the priest sat. The priest would ask if they wanted him to care for their certificates. Many did. When asked if the priests ever returned them, the response was that the priests were not known to give anything back.
If the Metis families declined to hand over their certificates to the care of the priest, they had to exit the tent through the Mountie gatekeepers and face the other speculators who offered a trade paper — paper cash for the certificate. Unable to read or write and little or no experience with paper money, the Metis were at a severe disadvantage, particularly those in the north. The cash offered was much less than the value of the certificate, but many exchanged one piece of paper for another.
The Metis are now seeking redress for the inter-generational impact of scrip and other land dispossessions.
Source: “The North-West is Our Mother” by Jean Teillet