Surrender of Duncan’s Indian Reserves

Purported Surrender of Duncan’s Indian Reserves 151 and 151B – 151H

Surveyor J. Lestock Reid had been instructed not to include the Shaftesbury settlers‘ claims in the Reserves to be surveyed. By 1905, at the time of the surveys, the Shaftesbury Settlement reportedly had a population of about 200 and included two sawmills and two gristmills. Non-aboriginal settlement had also spread beyond this hamlet on the north bank of the Peace River. By 1909 there were six settlements in this region: Peace River Crossing (formerly known as Peace River Landing), Shaftesbury, Silver Springs, Cold Springs, Bear Lake and Little Prairie.

With this influx of settlers came concerns about excess land being in the hands of the Aboriginal people and Ottawa began to receive requests for opening up for settlement the surveyed Indian Reserves in this region of the Peace. Increasing calls for the disposal of these Reserves came at the time of World War 1. In 1917, lawyers for a soldier serving overseas contacted the Indian Affairs Department asking about the availability of IR 151H, but were told this Reserve was not available. In June 1919, the Secretary of the Peace River Unionist Association proposed that all the Duncan‘s Indian Reserves, except IR 151, together with the Beaver (ancestors of today‘s Horse Lakes First Nation) Indian Reserves, excepting 152A, be made available for the purposes of soldier settlement. This request made its way to the offices of Arthur Meighan, Minister of the Interior, whose Private Secretary wrote a Memo to Duncan Campbell Scott, the Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs. The Memo requested that all these above-mentioned Indian Reserves be thrown open for the purposes of settlement with the reason given that hundreds of returned soldiers are seeking land in this neighborhood.

By 1928, according to a Department of the Interior report, the available Crown lands in the region had been practically exhausted. Consequently, Ottawa obtained a purported surrender for eight of the ten reserves that had been allotted to the Duncan‘s First Nation. The Duncan‘s First Nation Chief and Council challenged the validity of the 1928 purported surrenders through the Government of Canada‘s Specific Claims Process. They submitted that the purported surrenders of these seven Indian Reserves in 1928 were null and void, as they were not obtained in strict compliance with statutory requirements governing the surrender of Reserve lands set out in section 51 of the 1927 Indian Act. However, Canada rejected this Specific Claim. Consequently Duncan‘s First Nation Chief and Council requested a public inquiry and report by the Indian Claims Commission; this resulted in the 1999 Inquiry Report entitled Duncan‘s First Nation Inquiry, 1928 Surrender Claim.