In 1869 Canada purchased land from Hudson's Bay Company which included the area that is now Manitoba. In 1872 the Dominion Lands Act was created to encourage settlement and the lands were divided using the Dominion Land Survey.
The land was divided into meridians, ranges, townships and sections. Each section was further sub-divided into four quarters (NE, NW, SE, SW). Each of these quarters has a legal land description, or legal land location.
For example, NE 25-22-03 W1. NE is the quarter, 25 is the Section, 22 is the Township, 03 is the Range, W1 is the meridian.
Any male over the age of 21, or any female head of household, could apply for land, pay a $10 fee and if accepted, receive 160 acres. The settler then had three years to clear at least 40 acres and build a permanent dwelling.