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1840-1890: 3rd Wave

Settling the West


The third wave of immigration to the Prairies happened between 1840 -1890. Around 1840, Métis made up most of the population on the Prairies. Rupert’s Land was an area around Hudson Bay that was owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company for 200 years (from 1670 – 1870). Canada gained control over this region in 1870 and began making decisions for this area.

An illustrated world map is shown that is highlighting Canada and Rupert’s Land.

The Hudson’s Bay Company owned Rupert’s Land for 200 years until the Canadian government gained control of it.

Government Plans

Canada started making plans to settle the west. Canada wanted the land in the west to be farmed and started offering homesteads to people from Europe and created immigration rules. They also formed the North-West Mounted Police (now called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police).

Five North-West Mounted Police are wearing their uniforms and sitting on the front deck of a log building.

The North-West Mounted Police were created to patrol the area that the government of Canada was settling.

Part of the government’s plan to settle the west with farmers included building a railway that would go across the entire country called the Canadian Pacific Railway.

An illustrated train engine is shown with two railcars.

The government’s plan to settle the west was to build a railway that would go across the entire country.

Canada forced First Nations people onto reserves during this time in order to make room on the land for settlers. The Métis people were not included in the treaties. The government implemented a ‘Scrip’ system, which was supposed to give land to Métis people. However, the system was full of fraud, and many did not receive the land they were supposed to get.

As the fur trade neared its end and the number of bison diminished, the First Nations and Métis people had to adapt how they lived.

Four illustrated Indigenous people sit together by a campfire.

First Nations and Métis people struggled during the third wave of settlement.

Dominion Lands Act

In 1872, the Canadian government started advertising 160 acres for free to farmers, but there was a $10 administration fee. The homesteads would be granted to any male settler over the age of 21 who intended to start a homestead on their very own farmland. This was called the Dominion Lands Act.

An advertisement sketch is shown that has a woman holding a bundle of wheat with farm fields in the background. It is advertising 160 Acres of farmland in Canada in Swedish.

The government was advertising 160 acres of land for each new homestead.

The Dominion Land Acts policy changed in 1863, letting men who were 18 years old buy land. Women over 18 years old who were the sole head of a household became eligible to buy land in 1876. In 1919, widows of war veterans could also receive land.

Learn more about the Dominion Lands Act.

The Canadian government wanted the land to be farmed. They did not want people to buy the land only to sell it for a profit in a few years. They put rules in place for the homesteaders to follow. They had to:

  • Clear 40 acres of the land
  • Live on the land for at least six months each year
  • Build a house within three years
Two illustrated horses are pulling a stagecoach full of suitcases.

People moved from Eastern Canada to Western Canada now that the government had a settlement plan for this area.