Hudson’s Bay Company store, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Col. William R. Wallace noted his (apparently) recent contact or contacts with the “American consul” in Winnipeg in both of his two letters published on March 1st, 1889, in the Spokane Falls Chronicle and the Murray Sun. “Now, in justification of myself in this matter,” he wrote in the Chronicle‘s letter (1),
I will say that I investigated the validity of the Sioux scrip and found that the piece I held and located was the original and that it was genuine. I also found that Walter Bourke and his wife had never given any one the right to locate the duplicate; that the entry of the duplicate was fraudulent, and that the American consul at Winnipeg, in B.N.A., who witnessed the transfer and took the acknowledgement of Walter Bourke, is still where I can use him as a witness and knows the residence of the half breed and wife.
Wallace wrote much the same in his Murray Sun letter, adding, a little less ambigously in this letter, that Bourke himself still lived. (2) Col. Wallace may have learned of Bourke’s whereabouts at Winnipeg from the two power-of-attorney documents that would have accompanied Bourke’s Sioux half-breed scrip certificates — which scrip, Wallace asserted, had been purchased from the First National Bank of Spokane in 1886. The first power-of-attorney document allowed the bearer ostensibly to locate land on the scripee’s behalf; the second allowed the bearer to act as the scripee’s ostensible agent in selling the located land once the General Land Office had issued a patent for it. The name and signature fields for the party assuming this power-of-attorney authority would be left blank so that the scrip’s purchaser might reap its benefits.
Some digging on the World Wide Web, and some welcome assistance from others, including Gail Morin, has turned up a likely candidate for Walter Bourke in a district of contemporary Winnipeg. According to the data sheet provided by Ms. Morin (3), Walter Bourke — at the time Wallace published his March 1st, 1889 letters — was married to his second wife, Flora Hallett Bourke. He’d also been blessed with a daughter, Catherine Mary Bourke, by his first wife, Charlotte Fidler Bourke. Walter Bourke was born on May
7th, 1825 at St. Johns, Manitoba, Canada, now a district of Greater Winnipeg; he died on July 26, 1889 at St. James, now also a district of Greater Winnipeg, age 64. It follows that Wallace’s assertion that Walter Bourke was still alive when he was penning his March 1st letter to the Sun was quite correct, although Bourke’s life would end about five months later. On the other hand, Col. Wallace’s 1890 appeal to the General Land Office in Washington, D.C. and Interior Secretary John Willock Noble’s 1901 review of Wallace’s case occurred of course after Bourke’s life had ended.
Wikipedia’s page on “St. James-Assiniboia, Winnipeg,” where the Bourke family made their home, says in part: “Historically, the area was a farming community along the north bank of the Assiniboine River populated by an Anglo-Métis, or mixed Scottish/English and aboriginal population.” Walter Bourke had a mixed heritage family background. His father, John Palmer Bourke (1791-1851), was born in Ireland and his mother, Nancy Campbell Bourke (1792/1800-1887), was of mixed heritage — father, Archibald John Colin Campbell, was a trader; mother, “Ninse,” was a Sioux, “born and raised on the territory near Mankota,” near Saskatchewan’s southern border. (4) Nancy Campbell’s birthplace was described in one source as “St Mary’s Falls…near Prairie du Chien.” This location is significant for our purposes. It places Walter Bourke’s mother’s birthplace (a) in the United States, (b) on or near the Mississippi River, and (c) in the broad area roamed by the Sioux at the time of her birth. Hence, there is greater than a zero probability that Walter Bourke’s allotment of Sioux half-breed scrip, distributed in 1857, derived from his mother’s mixed-Sioux heritage. Walter was the third oldest of his parents’ eight offspring — all of whom, presumably, would have rightfully shared Walter’s right to claim half-breed scrip. Given Walter’s father’s and mother’s genealogies, he and his siblings may have been regarded as one-quarter Sioux.
The Bourke family appears to have held some prominence in St. James, Winnipeg, and Manitoba. Two of Walter Bourke’s three younger brothers, Edwin Colin Bourke (1836-1915) and Andrew Palmer Bourke (1832-1899), served in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. Edwin also served on the St. James Council and the school board. He was, according to one source, “a buffalo hunter, farmer and politician.” Andrew, in addition to his service as a legislator, was “an independent fur trader and noted horse lover.” (5)
How Nancy Campbell Bourke and her family may have become aware of the availability of Sioux half-breed scrip and their eligibility for same is an open question. She and her family were likely residing in Winnipeg in 1857 when the scrip became available and was distributed. The Bourke family may have heard the news from any number of sources — newspapers, friends, local Metis leaders, and so on. Nancy herself or a family representative may have been sent down to collect their scrip documents at distribution points in the Half Breed Tract. Incidentally, it’s come to my attention that the National Archives and Records Service, in Washington, D.C. holds records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs that include these numbered titles relating to Sioux half-breed scrip:
378. ROLL OF MIXED-BLOOD SIOUX CLAIMANTS
379. STUBS OF LAND CERTIFICATES FOR LAKE PEPIN HALF-BREED SIOUX
380. RECEIPTS FOR LAND CERTIFICATES FOR LAKE PEPIN HALF-BREED SIOUX
381. RELINQUISHMENT BY LAKE PEPIN HALF-BREED SIOUX
Searching for the Bourke family names in these records might tell more of the story of where and how Walter Bourke’s scrip came into his possession or ownership. Unfortunately, the National Archives does not offer a take-out service and one must actually visit their establishment in order to examine these files. (But what a treat that would be!)
We must keep in mind that land speculators who employed sharp practices and fraudulent methods were very much a part of the scrip distribution and circulation picture in the second half of the 19th century. Paul Spruhan, citing an 1871 special report on such practices in relation to Chippewa half-breed scrip (6), noted that, “Speculators shipped individuals from Michigan to Manitoba down to land offices that had no objective criteria for who was entitled to land.” (7) Among the numerous questionable stratagems described in this report occurred the following anecdotal account:
Nearly all these persons came into St. Cloud [MN] with one of the “Red River trains,” along procession of carts that comes annually, laden with furs, from the Northwest and the British possessions. These half-breeds, and others camping on the prairie near St. Cloud, were taken in charge and brought in crowds to the land-office. They subscribed and swore to applications, were identified in due form, located their 80 acres and immediately conveyed it to their friends who had so kindly informed them of the bounty of a generous Government, and receiving in turn from $15 to $40 each they went their way to their carts and to their homes in Canada. In these 116 successful applications we find, after the most diligent search, the name of only one man who belonged to the Chippewas of Lake Superior in 1854 Edward Wells and he had already received his scrip under this treaty. (1872, p. 255)
As will become apparent in an upcoming post, Sioux half-breed scrip was no stranger to the scheming and duplicity unearthed by 1871 commission study of Chippewa scrip.
Thus, we’ll need to leave the question of how Walter Bourke, in Winnipeg, acquired his scrip in the first place to further investigation.
(1) Reprinted in the Wallace Free Press, March 9th, 1889, from which I’ve borrowed this quote.
(2) Wallace’s comparable words in the Murray Sun letter (reprinted in the Wallace Free Press, March 16th, 1889): “I can prove by the American consul at Winnipeg, B.N.A., that the scrip was located by the original owner, Walter Bourke and wife; that he made oath, and still lives to verify the same; that he had never parted with the original and never gave any one power to use his name in any other location; never knew of any entry of this (his) scrip; and under this I felt perfectly secure that the title would be made to the Wallace townsite instead of the fraudulent claim claimants in Dakota…” (emphasis added).
(3) Message text attachment from Gail Morin, received May 28th, 2017.
(4) Darcy John Bouchard, “The Families of the Parents and some grand-parents of li Exovede and South Branch Méacutetis and certain of the Dominion Sympathizers, as well,” accessed at http://docslide.us/documents/li-exovedes-ancestors-of-li-exovedes-biographies.html.
(5) Lawrence J. Barkwell, Legislative Assembly of Manitoba[:] Metis Members, Louis Reil Institute, n.d. — accessed at https://www.scribd.com/document/324121091/Metis-Members-of-the-Legislative-Assembly-of-Manitoba.
(6) Annual Report of the Commission of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior for the Year 1871, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1872 — accessed at https://archive.org/details/annualreportofco187100unitrich. (For the commission report on abuses of Chippewa half-breed scrip, see Appendix D, pp. 240-257.)
(7) Paul Spruhan, “Indian Law and the Rhetoric of Race: Uses of Blood Quantum to Reorganization,” typescript (student paper), University of New Mexico, 2000, p. 12 — accessed at http://repository.unm.edu/handle/1928/2907.