Crown land patents: Indian land sales

By Catherine Butler

Reference archivists at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are often asked to assist researchers in tracking down patents for Indian land sales. Over the years, we’ve noticed that there is much confusion surrounding these records; specifically, what they are, what is held at LAC and how the records can be located. I hope that I can clear up some of this confusion.

What are Crown land patents?

Crown land patents are legal instruments issued when a territory in the Crown’s possession, such as a First Nations reserve, is divided and sold to a private individual or corporation. In Canada, First Nations reserves are considered to be federal Crown lands because they are owned by and are in trust to the Crown. LAC holds a number of the Indian land sale patents issued since 1763, though most of these records are still held in provincial archives.

Who issued patents for Indian lands?

Until 1845, the provincial secretaries for Upper and Lower Canada issued Indian land patents under the province’s Great Seal. Following the 1840 Act of Union between Upper and Lower Canada, the Office of the Registrar General was established for the united Province of Canada, assuming the responsibilities formerly held by the provincial secretaries.

By the time of Confederation in 1867, the provinces had become responsible for most Crown land sales, with the exception of lands held in trust for First Nations reserves, which fell under the authority of the federal government. The newly created federal Office of the Registrar General became responsible for issuing Indian land patents across Canada.

By 1886, this responsibility had been transferred to the Department of Indian Affairs, which retained the function until 1951. Since then, Indian land patents have been the responsibility of the Registrar General of Canada, though it should be noted that the last Indian land patent was issued in 1990.

What records are held at LAC?

Today, Indian land patents held at LAC are located in a variety of fonds, including the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs (RG10) and the Registrar General (RG68), and can therefore be a bit tricky to track down. Below is a list of the Indian land patents held by LAC.

DATES REGION REFERENCE
1700 to June 30, 1867 Quebec / Lower Canada / Canada East and Upper Canada / Canada West RG 68, Indexes to special grants and leases for Canada Company patents (MIKAN 192543)
1763 to September 2, 1845 Quebec / Lower Canada / Canada East MG8 – A26, Entrybooks of the Provincial Registrar for Quebec, Lower Canada and Canada East (MIKAN 107245)
1773 to September 2, 1845 Quebec / Lower Canada / Canada East RG 68, Vol. 893, Reel C-2883, KEY to the General Index (MIKAN 1336273)
November 1842 to September 23, 1865 Nova Scotia RG10, Vols. 459-461 and 1718, Reels C-13329 and C-13330, Nova Scotia Records (MIKAN 159097)
September 3, 1845 to June 30, 1867 Canada East and Canada West RG 68, Indexes to Indian and Ordnance Land Patents (MIKAN 192544)
July 01, 1867 to October 31, 1886 Canada RG 68, Indexes to Indian and Ordnance Land Patents (MIKAN 192544)
November 1, 1886 to July 1, 1951 Canada RG 10, Vols. 10923-10999,  13267 and 14108, Land Patents (MIKAN 133563)
August 1, 1951 to February 2, 1990 Canada RG 68, BAN 2000-01430-5, Box 1–51, Indexes/Ledgers (MIKAN 181720)

Keep in mind that patents issued by the Provincial Secretary of Upper Canada between 1793 and 1845 are held by the provincial archives, as are the pre-Confederation Indian land sales for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

What information do I need to find an Indian land patent?

In order to track down an Indian land patent, the following information is required:

  • Patentee name
  • Date of issue
  • Location of the lot
  • Patent number (not required, but very helpful)

Catherine Butler is a reference archivist at Library and Archives Canada

Inuit women and seals: a relationship like no other

By Julie Dobbin

Seals are a central part of life and an essential source of locally-harvested food for Inuit peoples. Many traditions, customs, beliefs and oral histories revolve around the seal. Inuit peoples were and still are in an important and direct relationship with this animal. Inuit hunters have great respect for the spirit of the seal, an animal that is so heavily relied upon. Every single part of the seal is used, as the harvesting must be sustainable, humane and respectful. Most importantly, cold and harsh arctic climates demand that people have the right shelter and clothing to keep warm and dry, and seals help meet this need through their skins, fur and oil.

Black-and-white photograph of an Inuit woman inside an igloo wearing a floral print parka and tending a seal oil lamp, with a young Inuit child wearing a fur parka.

Woman tending a seal-oil lamp inside an igloo, Western Arctic, probably Nunavut, 1949 (MIKAN 3202745)

Inuit women developed highly skilled techniques in order to treat and use seal in various ways throughout the seasons. They scraped the skins clean of blubber with an ulu (a traditional, women’s knife with a crescent-shaped blade) then stretched and dried them, as seen in this photograph of Taktu.

A colour photograph of an Inuit woman wearing a red cloth jacket, crouching on a rocky coastline and scraping fat from a seal skin with an ulu (a woman’s knife).

Taktu cleaning fat from a seal skin, Kinngait (Cape Dorset), Nunavut, summer 1960 (MIKAN 4324316)

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Voices of the Past

By Harriett Mathews

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has roughly 30 million photographs from various collections in its possession, a large number of which have Aboriginal content. During my time here as part of the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP) working on Project Naming, I have been able to explore the database and discover breath-taking photographs from different Aboriginal communities all over Canada.

Correcting the Historical Record

Although the photographs themselves are quite wonderful to behold, the records often leave something to be desired. For many Aboriginal images, the titles contain antiquated and offensive language, or are simply vague. It is imperative that these records be updated with modern terminology and information gathered from members of the communities where these photographic records originated. The involvement of Aboriginal people in this process is crucial because these records depict their history, their culture, and their families; their voices are the ones that have been omitted and lost. As I myself belong to the First Nations, I have greatly enjoyed being able to share my culture and help restore the lost voices of photographs by helping to update the records.

One example is an image titled “Dirty Daisy and her baby.” The photograph depicts an Inuit woman and her child suffering from malnutrition. “Daisy” was not the name of this woman; it is more likely the name that was assigned to her by a government official. By calling this woman “Dirty Daisy”, the individual who wrote the caption effectively stripped her of both her dignity and her name. Hopefully, through Project Naming, the real name of this woman and her child will be uncovered. In the meantime, the record has been updated so that the title now reads “An Inuit woman (Daisy) feeding her baby while seated in a tent in Chesterfield Inlet (Igluligaarjuk), Nunavut.”

Black and white photograph of a gaunt looking Inuit woman and child sitting in a small tent with cooking supplies in the background. The woman is feeding the baby with a rectangular bottle.

Inuit woman (Daisy) feeding her baby while seated in a tent in Chesterfield Inlet (Igluligaarjuk), Nunavut (MIKAN 3855414)

Improving Access – Photo by Photo

Since Project Naming began in 2002, more than 2,000 photographs have been identified. Additionally, thousands of records have had inaccurate and insensitive terminology removed from their titles and moved into a general notes field in order to provide historical context and perspective. Identifying names, places, events, and cultural objects facilitates the sharing of Aboriginal culture and stories with all who are interested in searching the archives. These include stories about Aboriginal politicians, for example Inuit Senator Charlie Watt who represents Quebec. I had the pleasure of working on DIAND Album 38, which contains several photographs of young Charlie Watt and his parents, Daisy and Johnny Watt. The photographs take place at a party in Kuujjuaq (formerly Fort Chimo), Quebec, and even though the photographs are black and white, the vibrancy of that Inuit community shines through.

Photograph of a green album page with three black and white photographs (numbered 154, 156, and 157) with typed captions on white paper. The photograph in the top left corner is of an Inuit woman in a plain dress and plaid shawl standing on a porch with a little girl in a parka drinking glass of milk. The photograph in the top right corner is of two Inuit women in plaid shawls and flower headbands sitting in front of wooden crates, one holding an accordion, with a baby sitting in the foreground to the left and a little boy in dress clothes standing beside the woman with the accordion. The photograph at the bottom of the page is of a woman in a blazer and ribbon headband dancing with a man in a suit; the woman on the left is holding a man’s hand – the rest of the man is out of the shot – and there are three women and an oil lamp in the background.

Album page fifty-three with photographs of an Inuit woman and girl (Daisy Watt, possibly with Harriat Ruston), a group of Inuit women and children—Daisy Watt is playing the accordion, Christina Gordon is on the right, and Charlie Watt (Daisy’s son) is standing on the left—and S.J. Bailey and H. Lamberton dancing with two Inuit women—Daisy Watt is on the right with S.J. Bailey, the woman behind her is Susie, and Hannah (Susie’s sister) is on the left holding H. Lamberton’s hand—in Kuujjuaq (formerly Fort Chimo), Quebec (MIKAN 4326945)

Black and white photograph of five women, four of them seated and one on the far right standing with a baby wrapped in a plaid shawl. The woman in the centre of the photograph is playing an accordion, and the woman to her left has a young boy in her lap. Behind them are several wooden crates labeled “Marven’s Biscuits” and one marked “H.B.C. Wholesale Vancouver.”

A group of women and children at a party in Kuujjuaq (formerly Fort Chimo), Quebec, the woman playing the accordion is Lizzie Suppa and to her immediate left are Daisy Watt and Charlie Watt (Daisy’s son) (MIKAN 3855585)

Photograph of a green album page with three black and white photographs (numbered 158, 159, and 160) with typed captions on white paper. The photograph in the top left corner is of women and children sitting in front of several wooden crates labeled “Marven’s Biscuits” and one marked “H.B.C. Wholesale Vancouver.” The photograph in the top right corner is of two couples dancing while a woman plays the accordion. The photograph at the bottom of the page is of an Arctic ground squirrel in a grassy field with a rock in the foreground.

Album page fifty-four with photographs of a group of women and children [Lizzie Suppa is playing the accordion, seated to her left are Daisy Watt and Charlie Watt], two Inuit couples dancing [Johnny and Daisy Watt are on the left, on the far right is Lizzie (with her accordion again)], and a Siksik (an Arctic ground squirrel) (MIKAN 4326946)

Restoring Aboriginal Voices

All of these photographs are essential to the telling of Canadian history. They demonstrate the narrative of the relationship between Aboriginal people and the Canadian government, and most significantly, they tell the stories of the individuals in the photographs and share their culture. For decades, First Nations, the Metis Nation, and Inuit voices have been lost in these records. Project Naming is vital because it provides Aboriginal people a forum through which they can reclaim their stories and identities. I am glad that I have been able to contribute my voice, as a First Nations woman, to these records. There are so many stories to be told, and I am sure that as LAC continues to move forward in partnership with Aboriginal peoples, we will be able to hear them.


Harriett Mathews was an FSWEP student who worked in the Exhibition and Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada during the summer of 2016.

Do you have Aboriginal ancestry? The census might tell you

Many individuals do genealogical research to determine whether they have an Aboriginal branch in their family tree. For some, this is simply to confirm or disprove a family story. For others, the research is connected to self-identity, empowerment, possible registration in Aboriginal organizations or funding connected to self-identification.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) cannot make any determination about whether you are Aboriginal, but our documents can assist in your research.

Sadly, sometimes, our family stories are just that—stories. Likewise, family photographs may lead us to make false assumptions. Are we seeing something that is not really there?

You might find the answer in census returns.

Identifying First Nation, Métis or Inuit in historical census returns

Seeking an understanding of Aboriginal identity through family histories and genealogical research can be a challenging task in Canada. Two systems of definitions exist—one based in law and legislation, the other in family tradition and community practice. Continue reading

Are we missing part of the historical record regarding Oronhyatekha?

By Richie Allen

Searching through archival records can sometimes lead to unexpected discoveries.

 In my work as a reference archivist at Library and Archives Canada, I regularly conduct research for researchers’ requests. While investigating if a certain individual had actually received formal military training in 1865 at the Toronto School of Military Instruction, I consulted Library and Archives Canada’s online database, Archives Search. A keyword search located the first Register of Candidates Admitted to the School of Military Instruction, Upper Canada (Toronto), 1865-1867, in the record group relating to the Department of Militia and Defense (RG9), Volume 7.  When I consulted the school ledger, the name I was looking for was not there, but another name instantly caught my attention.  Standing out clearly on the list, amid the old script of European first-middle-last name format, was the single Mohawk name Oronhyatekha.

A colour photo showing on the left side an opened book and on the right side a close-up showing a name on the page of the book.

Register of Candidates Admitted to the School of Military Instruction, Upper Canada, 1865-1867. The name “Oronhyatekha” has been highlighted with a blue circle (R180-124-1-E, MIKAN 195106)

The ledger contains many columns of information. In particular, on page 9, it indicates that Oronhyatekha was 23 years old, from Shannonvillle, but living in Toronto. In subsequent lists, he is indicated as being admitted to the school at Toronto on May 6, 1865. On July 29, 1865, he is noted as the “candidate permitted to remain in school for purpose of qualifying for 1st class certificate”—an honour accorded to few students.

A colour image showing a close-up of a page from a book.

Information from the ledger indicating that Oronhyatekha is permitted to remain in the school for the purpose of qualifying for a 1st class certificate (MIKAN 195106)

Information can also be found on Oronhyatekha, also known as Peter Martin, born in 1841, in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, where select biographical entries on significant Canadians can be found. Upon reading this entry, you will note that there is no specific mention of Oronhyatekha attending the School of Military Instruction. Therefore, it appears that there are gaps in the historical record, and we are wondering if this is something new to add to his biography. Please contact us if you have any additional information on this important individual.


Richie Allen is a reference archivist in the Reference Services section at Library and Archives Canada.

Visit the new webpage dedicated to the Carignan-Salières Regiment

Hear ye! Hear ye! Interested in the history of New France? Visit our new webpage dedicated to the Carignan-Salières Regiment, where you can access all of our resources related to this important unit in the history of New France.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Jean-François Lozier, Curator of French North American history at the Canadian Museum of History, and ask him some questions about the regiment. You can listen to the audio recording of his responses.

Naming Aboriginal Canadians

When doing historical research of any kind, researchers have to choose a variety of search words. They hope that by using the correct word they can locate and use both primary and secondary sources. Choosing the right search terms is a challenge at the best of times, but the challenges involved in finding Aboriginal content are particularly significant. Many search words reflect historical biases and misunderstandings. Over time, names or terms change entirely while spellings are altered to suit the period, location and circumstances.

And the terms are still changing.

There is little evidence that, as knowledge keepers, First Nations, Métis or Inuit were involved in the historical creation and development of the documents found at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). However, the individuals or institutions that created the documents left a strong imprint on them that is coloured by the why, when and where of their creation.

The language and imagery used in the past, however problematic, remain in the database descriptions. Terms such as “squaw,” “half-breed,” “massacre,” “uncivilized” and “victory” should be used with careful consideration and in an appropriate context.

A watercolour showing a woman wearing a red dress with a blanket wrapped around her head and shoulders. She is wearing snowshoes and looking off to the left. Behind in the distance is the silhouette of a church with a mountain behind it.

Indian squaw in her Sunday best with Montréal in the distance painted by Francis George Coleridge, 1866 (MIKAN 2836790)

A lithographic print showing a group of nine people, likely a family, including a baby, and three children sitting in front a tepee. One person is standing up and holding a rifle and two Métis men are smoking pipes.

Indian tepee and rebel Half Breed [Métis], 1885 (MIKAN 2933963)

A watercolour showing three figures standing by a body of water. From left to right: a woman smoking a pipe with a baby on her back , a man wearing leggings, a long blue jacket and a Métis sash holding a rifle in his right hand, and another woman with a shawl wrapped around her head and body wearing a blue dress underneath.

A half-cast [Métis] and his two wives (MIKAN 2835810)

Equally problematic is material that has less than perfect descriptions. These are not always helpful. Little detail is forthcoming when terms such as “native type” and “peau rouge” (red skin) are used. At the same time, the majority of individuals depicted in the images in Library and Archive Canada’s collections were never identified. Many archival descriptions relating to events or activities are absent or have dated information (e.g. place names, band names or terminology). Alternatively, information is based on original inscriptions and captions found in the records, and hence reflects the biases and attitudes of non-Aboriginal society at the time.

The sheer number of these type of descriptions makes searching for a particular document or photograph a formidable task.

LAC does modify the descriptions in its collection. While ensuring the integrity of the original description, LAC strives to add clarity to incomplete data and modify inappropriate language when examples come to our attention. We never alter an original record or image, only the description that was created for it.

A black-and-white photograph of an Inuit man wearing a shirt and suspenders and looking directly at the photographer.

[Close-up portrait of a man wearing suspenders, Chesterfield Inlet (Igluligaarjuk), Nunavut]. Original Title: Native type, Chesterfield Inlet, N.W.T., July, 1926 (MIKAN 3379826)

Captain James Peters: War correspondent and photographer

Photography is now an integral part of our lives; our daily events are recorded whether they be monumental or mundane. From its beginnings in the 1830s, photography was used to chronicle the events of war. Early photographers struggled to capture the rapid action of combat as photographic equipment was unable to record movement. Consequently, early images of war were often staged recreations of the actual campaign. Generally, they depicted the less active aspects of war, such as portraits of soldiers, camp life, fortifications, artillery placements, and the battle sites before and after the action.

Captain James Peters recorded the dramatic events of the North-West Resistance as a photographer and a correspondent for the Quebec Morning Chronicle. The North-West Resistance was a five-month insurgency against the Canadian government, fought mainly by citizens of the Métis Nation and their First Nations allies. Peters was a pioneer in capturing the events on the battlefield.

Captain Peters and the “A” Battery of the Canadian Artillery left Quebec City on March 28, 1885 for the northwest. The “A” Battery was to provide artillery support for Major-General Frederick D. Middleton and the Canadian Militia. Peters would serve with Middleton at Fish Creek, Batoche and during the militia’s search for Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear). Continue reading

The Carignan-Salières Regiment

The colony of New France was in a precarious situation when France’s King Louis XIV acceded to the throne in 1661. The population and safety of the colony were a priority for him. In order to increase the population, the first contingent of the Filles du roi (“King’s daughters”) was sent there in 1663. Two years later, in 1665, the Carignan-Salières Regiment disembarked in New France to ensure the safety of the colony and, more specifically, to deal with the Iroquois threat.

A pen and watercolour sketch depicting an officer in the Carignan-Salières Regiment in profile. He is holding a lance in his right hand and wearing a sheathed sword on his left hip.

Officer of the Carignan-Salières Regiment, 1666 (MIKAN 2896020)

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