Tiffany Shaw: Edmonton River Valley
April 1, 2022 - November 13, 2023
Tiffany Shaw has mapped the section of the North Saskatchewan River that flows through the city limits of amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton) while thinking about the Métis scrip process. The undulating river is seen from above and references topical mapping and river lots but relies solely on the river itself as land marker.
From the 1870s until 1924 Métis were given scrip, which is a certificate or coupon that could be exchanged either for land plots of various size or for money. Scrip was offered in lieu of Treaty rights and extinguished the potential collective land rights of the Métis. The process to exchange scrip certificates for land was convoluted and lengthy. This years-long pursuit required the understanding and completion of complex and confusing documents in English and multiple in-person visits to land title offices that were difficult to access. This complicated system meant that many scrip were never redeemed. If one did successfully navigate the process, the land that was offered was often far from one’s community or on less desirable land far from vital water sources. Scrip divided and distributed land inequitably and in contrast to the Métis river lot system that predated it.
Traditional Métis river lots were determined by the river and are a way to share land so that everyone got access to water. A family’s land would extend out from the river in long narrow lots that all had river access. In the late 1800s, the north and south banks of what we now know as the Edmonton River Valley were divided into 44 river lots. Those river lots dictate much of the layout of contemporary Edmonton, and Métis landowners like Garneau, Fraser and Groat are now memorialized in namesake communities. Shaw’s Edmonton River Valley, however, is free of markers of contemporary, Métis, and colonial land division. The rhythm of the river itself is trusted to hold these past and present stories.