Dealing in Métis scrip

Photo: Lobby of the Alloway and Champion Bank.

Winnipeg’s colonial heritage cannot be ignored. While William Forbes Alloway established a community foundation that has come to signify the strength of community philanthropy and the vital importance of community-led solutions to complex challenges, how he accumulated his wealth must be acknowledged.

Alloway and Champion Bank, which was at one time the largest private bank in Western Canada, dealt in Métis scrip. When Manitoba became a province in 1870, 1.4 million acres of land were set aside for the Métis.4 Certificates for land or cash – known as scrip – were given to Métis as a settlement.

While Alloway and Champion General Manager Peter Lowe, who would go on to become The Foundation’s first Executive Director, said the bank refused to engage in the then whiskey-for-scrip trade, it was involved in other execrable means to obtain scrip.

Prospective scrip buyers were often aware of the whereabouts of Dominion land agents when agents delivered scrip to Métis claimants, and sometimes scrip buyers would accompany agents to immediately purchase the scrip from recipients. This is something William Alloway’s younger brother Charlie often did.

“Alloway and Champion were particularly fortunate in having Charlie Alloway as a partner who could speak many of the Indian dialects then in use,” Lowe wrote.5

Scrip holders could use the scrip for any land opened for homestead, and dealers could therefore resell it to new settlers.

There was also cash or money scrip, which Alloway and Champion largely dealt in. It could be applied at face value to purchase Dominion government lands.

Many things have changed since William Alloway came to our community with the Wolseley Expedition. As society becomes aware of the colonial past that has allowed few to succeed at the expense of many, we must acknowledge the ways in which this allowed The Foundation to grow. As we enter into our second century, The Foundation is committed to acknowledging these past wrongs, listening to our community, and adjusting our activities. Please read more in the statement from our CEO, “Setting the stage for our next century,” – Re-confirming our vision.

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