Before the Indian Act: Laws that separated Lower Canada First Nations and Métis

Why are Métis different from First Nations in Québec (previously known as the Province of Canada and Lower Canada)?

On Quebec’s unceded lands along the St-Lawrence valley, First Nations at Wendake, Odanak, Wolinak, Kanesatake and Kanahwake lands were “gifted” to its community.

Interestingly, many Lower Canada Métis lived in one of Métis Nicholas Montour’s (son of Sally Ainse & Andrew Montour, grandson of Anne Abenaki & Jean-Baptiste Couc and great-grandson of Marie Mite8agami8k8e and Pierre Couc) seigneuries he purchased: Pointe-du-Lac (also known as Normanville or Tonnancour), Gastineau, Pierreville and Rivière-David (also called Deguire).

Nicholas Montour also owned land along Deskan Zibii (Antler river, now known as Thames river) in Upper Canada, which he inherited from his mother.

None of “his” communities were transformed into communal land like it had been done for First Nations with the creation of “reserves”.

Prior to 1763, both in nominal and legal terms, all French territorial claims in North America belonged to the French king. French monarchs did not impose feudal (seigneurial) land tenure on New France and the king’s actual attachment to these lands was virtually non-existent. (Pritchard, James S. (2004). In Search of Empire : The French in the Americas, 1670–1730. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN0-521-82742-6)

The Act for the better protection of the Lands and Property of the Indians in Lower Canada was enacted in 1850. It was one of the first pieces of legislation that included a set of requirements for a person to be considered a legal Indian.

People were “considered as Indians” if they were of “Indian blood”. All descendants of such people, non-Indians who “intermarried with such Indians,” people whose parents would have been considered Indians, and adopted in infancy by any such Indians, were considered to be Indian.

The 1850 Act for the Better Protection of the lands and property of the Indians of Lower Canada also appointed a “Commissioner” and designated the land as held in trust by the Crown but began to limit certain rights of the “Indians”.

In 1854, the feudal (seigneurial) system was formally abolished through the passage of the Feudal Abolition Act by the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, which received royal assent on 18 December 1854.
The Act provided for the conversion of all feudal tenure into that of allodial title – which constitutes individual ownership of real property that is independent of any superior landlord.

In 1857, the Gradual Civilization Civilization Act sought to enfranchise the Lower Canada Métis who had been designated as “Indians” by the 1850 law – likely to facilitate selling them the seigneurial land they had lived on for centuries.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s