Title and statement of responsibility area
School Lands sub-series
General material designation
- Textual record
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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)
Dates of creation area
1883-1960 (predominant: 1903-1930) (Creation)
- Canada. Dept. of the Interior. School Lands Branch
1883-1960 (predominant: 1903-1930) (Creation)
- Saskatchewan. Lands Branch
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The School Lands Branch was established in 1879 to administer lands that were reserved for education purposes under the Dominion Lands Act, 1872. The Act stated that sections 11 and 29 of every surveyed township were designated as school lands. Any revenue generated from the sale of these lands was to finance school construction and the purchase of school supplies.
The rapidly increasing population of the western Canadian territories and the need for federal assistance to help build educational facilities necessitated special legislation by the Canadian government. This law also resulted in the creation of a separate School Lands Branch within the Department of the Interior to administer the terms of the act. The Branch was responsible for arranging public auctions for the sale of school lands, inspecting property, and setting the price for land. The lands could not be sold until a fair market value could be attained; in the interim, the land was often leased for grazing, timber, and/or haying purposes. Monies collected for these purposes were added to the territorial/provincial education endowment.
The School Lands Branch was placed under the direction of Frank Checkley from 1879 to 1918. Initially, the Branch reported to the Minister of the Department of the Interior through the Commissioner of Dominion Lands. In 1909, the Branch reported directly to the Minister. In 1918, the status of the Branch was downgraded to a Division, and it was placed back under the authority of the Dominion Lands Branch, and was renamed the Dominion Lands Bureau. The unit was disbanded in 1930 when the management of natural resources and dedicated Crown Lands in the western provinces was transferred to the provinces. In Saskatchewan, this authority transferred to the Department of Natural Resources, Lands Branch which operated from 1930 to 1944.
Name of creator
From 1930 to 1947 the Lands Branch, and grant and lease functions, were part of the Department of Natural Resources (later the Department of Natural Resources and Industrial Development.) The initial legislation (The Provincial Lands Act, 1931 and The Land Utilization Act, 1935) and the legacy of the Federal Department of the Interior, which previously held jurisdiction over these responsibilities, provided the framework for Crown Land lease and sale accounting and administration. While the Lands Branch was part of the Department of Natural Resources, the Provincial Lands Division and then (in 1932) the Lands Patent Division carried out the grants and transfer of land. This included handling enquiries, application forms, payments, agreements and recording the disposition of land.
In 1948, control of the Lands Branch was transferred to the Department of Agriculture, which subsequently changed the responsibility for many of the functions from the Land Utilization Division to the Inspection Services Division. During the 1960s, The Agriculture Rehabilitation and Development Act resulted in many of the grants and leases only being permitted for projects related to the development and conservation of water supplies, soil improvement, and /or agricultural efficiency.
In 1975, the Lands Disposition and Records Division of the Lands Branch became responsible for land grants and transfers - by advertising land for lease/sale, by preparing land transfers, and by maintaining the records of lands. In 1984-1985, a reorganization of the Lands Branch saw many of these functions split between the Field Operations and Support Services divisions.
The transfer of the Lands Branch back to the Department of Agriculture and Food in 1993 resulted in another reorganization, splitting the control of leases and sales amongst geographically oriented divisions (i.e. northwest, south). In 1993-1994 the Branch operated under the Financial Support and Program Management Division as part of the Lands and Regulatory Management Branch. This Branch had a broader mandate, including livestock health and operations. With the abolishment of the Crow's Nest Pass annual railways subsidy in February 1995, Lands Branch assumed responsibility for management of the provincial share of the federal payout and amended rental rates on Crown agricultural leases.
In 1996, the splitting of the Lands and Regulatory Management Branch into three branches (Livestock and Veterinary Operations, Pasture, and Lands) resulted in Lands Branch becoming part of the Program and Services Division, where it remained until April 2005. This change marked the first time that the Lands Branch did not hold responsibility for the administration of provincial pastures and the Community Pastures Program. The responsibility was returned to the Branch in 2001 with the amalgamation of Pastures and Lands Branches.
In 2000, the stated mandate of Lands Branch was "to promote the sustainable and integrated use of Crown land while providing opportunities for diversification and economic growth." Between April 2002 and May 2004 the Department operated as the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Revitalization. Currently (2011) Lands Branch resides in the Ministry of Agriculture. While the Branch has experienced changes in its structure and in policy and program development, the basic function regarding the administration, sale and lease of Crown lands has not substantially altered throughout its history.
Scope and content
The sub-series consists of records of school lands in Saskatchewan that were created, accumulated and used by the Government of Canada, Department of the Interior, School Lands Branch between 1883 and 1960.
The sub-series includes correspondence relating to land transfer, payments, and ownership of school lands; certificates of sale and lease agreements; cattle grazing and haying permits; land patent documents; documentation for right of ways; soldier settlements after World War I; land maps; land inspection forms; and other documentation relating to school lands.
Records are in good physical condition.
Immediate source of acquisition
The federal Department of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources transferred these records to the Saskatoon office, Provincial Archives Saskatchewan, in one accession in 1956: 453 (S) (1956).
Original order maintained by archivist.
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Restrictions on access
These records may be subject to access restrictions. Please consult reference archivist for assistance.
Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication
Use, publication and/or reproduction of records are subject to Crown Copyright. Please consult reference archivist for assistance.
To consult the records, visit or contact the Regina office.
SAFA 296 (part of old guide GS 66) consists of a series description and file list.
A searchable database of the pre-1930 homestead files in the holdings is available on the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan website.
No further accruals are expected.
Location for retrieval: Regina - Hillsdale
Archival staff removed fasteners and placed files in acid-free folders.
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Rules or conventions
Saskatchewan Archives. Archival Description Manual 2004.
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