The Métis Archival Project (MAP) Research Lab began in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta in 1999. Founded by Dr. Frank Tough, the lab was originally known as the Métis Aboriginal Title Research Initiative (MatriX). The MAP Lab does applied archival research intended for the litigation of Métis rights, taking the crown's historical records and using them to support Métis claims today. The lab has digitized thousands of scrip records, creating high res, high quality images with detailed information about each. All of these records they digitize through a multi-person, multi-step process that ensures their files are error-free.
With the Powley decision in 2003, there is a need for objectively verifiable connections between individuals and historic Métis communities and the MAP Lab is uniquely positioned to provide that support. For the Métis National Council, the Lab created an online database that allows Métis people to investigate their genealogy by searching the names of their ancestors. The database, which was preceded by an earlier database created in 2006, makes archival documents available and accessible to the average computer user.
Dr. Frank Tough is the director of the MAP Lab, Professor of Native Studies, and historical geographer. Tough published As Their Natural Resources Fail: Native People and the Economic History of Northern Manitoba, 1870-1930 (UBCPress) which received two book awards. Frank Tough has specialized in the post-1870 historical geographies of Aboriginal peoples and has acquired an expertise in a variety of federal government records, several provincial archives, as well as, the more conventional archival sources (Indian Affairs, missionaries and the Hudson’s Bay Company).
He has published articles/chapters on the transfer of Rupertsland, Indian economic behavior, the demise of Native fisheries, Indian treaties, the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement, and Métis entitlements (scrip) which often disputes the conventional thinking of both lawyers and historians. Along with academic research, Tough has severed as an expert witness in several court cases concerning Aboriginal and treaty rights. In particular, expertise has been required on the economic history of the Métis. He has also engaged in archival research for the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat, the federal Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Treaty Commissioner Office of Saskatchewan. Past efforts have focused on maintaining a research lab which digitizes historical documents, making archival records accessible online through database technology, and training undergraduate students in applied research.
His interests and expertise concern three really odd empirical/disciplinary pairings: (1) history and law, that is, the legal history of say the infringement of Treaty harvesting rights; (2) history and geography, such as the historical geography of the fur trade; and (3) economics and history, as in the case of an economic history approach to the individualization of collective property rights. These themes are usually tinged with a little bit of political economy, but Tough’s research is almost entirely based on archival sources; it is empirically oriented, and aimed at addressing specific problems pertaining to applied historical research.