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Description found in Archives

Department of the Interior fonds [textual record (some microform), graphic material, cartographic material]. 



Place of creation


604.97 m of textual records
ca. 258 aperture card books
ca. 5174 maps
8 diagrams mss., ink on tracing linen 61 x 57 cm or smaller.
1 profile
2 atlases : (2 portfolios (109; 62 maps) +

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records created and/or maintained by the Department of the Interior and its predecessors. Researchers are cautioned that unprocessed textual records and records in other media are not reflected in this description.

Textual records
32: Restricted by law
Textual records: microform
90: Open
Cartographic material
90: Open
Graphic (photo)
Copy negative PA-041366
96: Restrictions vary
Graphic (photo)
96: Restrictions vary
from 1 to 4
90: Open
Archival reference no.
Former archival reference no.

Terms of use

Copyright belongs to the Crown.

Finding aids are available. See lower level descriptions and accession records in ArchiviaNet (the NA website). (Other)

Biography / Administrative history

Following the surrender of Rupert's Land by the Hudson's Bay Company to the new Dominion of Canada in 1869 and the subsequent passing of the Manitoba Act in 1870 (33 Vic., c. 3), the federal government, in 1872, devised the Dominion Lands Act (35 Vic., c. 23) as a means by which this vast new territory in the northwest would be administered and gradually brought into confederation. Although the Department of Secretary of State for the Provinces was originally designated as the federal department charged with administering this act, the following year, in 1873, Parliament created an entirely new department, the Department of the Interior (36 Vic., c. 4), to take over this responsibility. This move effectively placed, within the jurisdiction of a single government department, all federal administrative duties for all unpatent lands west of the Manitoba/Ontario border, for all Ordnance and Admiralty Lands across the Dominion, for all Indian lands, and for all public lands not specifically under the mandate of the Departments of Public Works or Militia and Defence. Later, the Department's jurisdiction would also be extended to the 40-mile wide Railway Belt and to the 3.5-million-acre Peace River Block, both of which were located in British Columbia, and to the lands north of the 60th parallel, specifically Yukon Territory.

Over the course of its 63-year existence, the Department of the Interior was responsible for a full range of federal responsibilities. These focused on the settlement and development of western Canada and eventually this activity led to the creation of two prairie provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan), and the expansion of a third (Manitoba). The department assisted in the removal of native peoples from the open plains; it settled Métis land grievances; it surveyed and subdivided the region into a patch-work of free homesteads based on 160-acre allotments and then proceeded to promote and settle these holdings through a massive immigration campaign; it established land reserves for natives, the railway companies, the Hudson's Bay Company, towns, research stations, churches, and schools; it monitored and developed the region's natural resources, in particular its minerals, water, timber, petroleum, and coal; and through several sub-agencies initiated scientific investigations on a wide variety of natural resources.

At various times, the Department had, in addition to its central administrative core, more than 30 distinct branches and sub-agencies under its umbrella, many of which eventually evolved into separate agencies or departments in their own right, such as: the North-West Mounted Police, the Geological Survey of Canada, surveys and mapping, the Chief Geographer, Indian affairs, forestry, mines, water, immigration, national parks, wildlife, national museums, tourism, and recreation.

With the passing of legislation to bring the western provinces on a more equatable basis with the four eastern provinces which had been the original signatories to Confederation, the federal government agreed to devolve its responsibilities for the management of natural resources to provincial administration. The date of the actual the transfer of resource administration was not the same for all provinces: for Manitoba the transfer took effect on July 15, 1930 (see, 20-21 Geo. v, c 13); for the Peace River Block and the Railway Belt in British Columbia, it took effect on August 1, 1930 (see, 20-21 Geo. v, c. 37); and for Alberta and Saskatchewan, it was on October 1, 1930 (see, 20-21 Geo. v, c. 3 and 20-21 Geo. v, c. 41). Even with the transfer completed, the Department of the Interior still directly controlled natural resources management in the National Parks and in the two Territories an area of some 1,528,000 square miles or nearly 40 percent of the land surface of Canada. Despite the significant size of the area remaining under its portfolio, the Department of the Interior had lost much of its raison d'etre. Consequently, on December 1, 1936, the Department was dissolved, and what remained of the federal mandate in the area of resource development and management was merged with similar functions from three other federal departments Mines, Indian Affairs, and Immigration to form a new agency, the Department of Mines and Resources (1 Edw. vii, c. 33). In effect, the re-organization merely brought together, under a new name, some of the former functions of the Department of the Interior which had split off earlier into separate agencies.

Ministers of the Department of the Interior: Alexander Campbell, 1873; David Laird, 1873-76; Richard W. Scott (acting), 1876; David Mills, 1876-78; John A. Macdonald, 1878-83; David L. Macpherson, 1883-85; Thomas White, 1885-88; Edgar Dewdney, 1888-92; T. Mayne Daly, 1892-96; Hugh J. Macdonald, 1896; Richard W. Scott (acting), 1896; Clifford Sifton, 1896-1905; Wilfrid Laurier, 1905; Frank Oliver, 1905-11; Robert Rogers, 1911-12; William J. Roche, 1912-17; Arthur Meighen, 1917-20; James A. Lougheed, 1920-21; Charles A. Stewart, 1921-26; Henry H. Stevens (acting), 1926; Charles Stewart, 1926-30; Ian A. Mackenzie, 1930; Thomas G. Murphy, 1930-35; Thomas A. Crerar, 1935-36.

Additional information

Source of title
36 Vic., c.4, 1873

No further accruals are expected.


Other system control no.