The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan


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Dominion Lands Act / Homestead Act

The Saskatchewan landscape changed as the Dominion Lands Act/Homestead Act came into effect in 1872. While Saskatchewan would not become a province until 1905, settlers arrived during the mid- to late 1800s because of promises of land grants by the government. The Dominion Lands Act of 1872 outlined the provisions for granting homesteads to settlers: free homesteads of 160 acres were offered to farmers who cleared ten acres and built a residence within three years of a registered intent to settle a specific land claim. The Dominion Lands Act imposed a standard measure for surveying, subdividing and settling the Prairies: land had to be located through cadastral surveys; individuals had to show that their land was improved upon and had increased in value or use by constructing a dwelling or cultivating the land; letters patent would then be issued to settlers by a Dominion Lands Board which screened and validated all applications.

While the availability of land helped to entice settlers, the Dominion Lands Act also ensured that inhabitants would have no control over the land and other resources: the Dominion would hold this control until 1930, when the federal government transferred responsibility of land issues to the provinces. The 1879 amendments to the Dominion Lands Act acknowledged previously unsettled claims and addressed the claims of First Nations and Métis in the west; section 42 of the Act indicated recognition and protection of Aboriginal rights, limiting settlement of the land by homesteaders until title was extinguished by Métis and other Aboriginal inhabitants. However, while criteria regarding land claims for settlers were clearly defined under section 31 of the Manitoba Act, the stipulations applying to Métis in the North-West Territories before joining the Dominion as Saskatchewan in 1905 were not: section 125 of the Dominion Lands Act of 1879 empowered the federal government to grant persons who established undisturbed occupation and peaceable possession of the land, occupancy of that land.

Elizabeth Mooney

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University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
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Diversification de l'économie de l'Ouest Canada et le gouvernement de la Saskatchewan.