The Cree are a First Nations tribe who live throughout central Canada. There are over 200,000 Cree living in Canada today. A small group of Cree also live in the United States on a reservation in Montana.
The Cree are often divided up into a number of smaller groups such as the James Bay Cree, Swampy Cree, and Moose Cree. They can also be divided into two major culture groups: the Woodland Cree and the Plains Cree. The Woodland Cree live in the forested areas of central and eastern Canada. The Plains Cree live in the Northern Great Plains in Western Canada.
Cree Indian by George E. Fleming
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Cree lived in small bands throughout Canada. They hunted game and gathered nuts and fruit for food. When the Europeans arrived, the Cree traded furs with the French and British for goods like horses and clothing.
For many years, the influx of European settlers into America had little effect on the daily life of the Woodland Cree in northern Canada. The Plains Cree, however, took on the "horse culture" of the plains Indians and became bison hunters. Over time, the expansion of European settlers and the loss of the bison herds, forced the Plains Cree to move to reservations and take up farming.
What kind of homes did the Cree live in?
The Woodland Cree lived in lodges made from wooden poles covered with animal hides, bark, or sod. The Plains Cree lived in teepees made from buffalo hides and wooden poles.
What language do they speak?
The Cree language is an Algonquian language. Different groups speak different dialects, but they can generally understand each other.
What was their clothing like?
The Cree made their clothes from animal hides such as buffalo, moose, or elk. The men wore long shirts, leggings, and breechcloths. The women wore long dresses. During the cold winters both men and women would wear long robes or cloaks to keep warm.
What type of food did they eat?
The Cree were mostly hunter-gatherers. They hunted a variety of game including moose, duck, elk, buffalo, and rabbit. They also gathered food from plants such as berries, wild rice, and turnips.
Before Europeans arrived, the Cree had little in the way of formal government. They lived as small bands each led by a chief. The chief was respected and listened to, but did not rule over the people. Today, each Cree reservation has its own government led by a chief and a council of leaders.
Interesting Facts about the Cree Tribe
The Cree lost much of their land when a number of hydroelectric dams were built in the James Bay area.
During the winter, they ate a mixture of dried meat, berries, and fat called pemmican.
The Cree language is still widely spoken among the Cree people today.
Cree teenagers would pass into adulthood by going on a vision quest where they would go off on their own for several days and not eat until they had a vision. The vision would tell them their guardian spirit and direction in life.
The word "Cree" comes from the name "Kiristonon" given to the people by French trappers. It was later shortened to "Cri" and then "Cree" in English.