Native American Tribes Nations and Confederacies: Cree

The Cree, whose language belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock, formerly inhabited the area south of Hudson Bay and James Bay in what is now Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba south of the Churchill River. Members of one branch of the Cree, allying themselves with the Siouan Assiniboin, moved southward into buffalo territory and became the Plains Cree. They introduced the method of hunting buffalo by driving them into enclosures, as they had for many years when hunting deer.

A warlike tribe, the Cree were nevertheless friendly toward French and English fur traders, and their history is closely connected with the activities of the Hudson's Bay and the North West companies. They were powerful in the late 18th century up until smallpox drastically reduced their population. In 1884 they were involved in the second Riel Rebellion in Saskatchewan.

About 200,000 Cree live in 135 bands in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. They have the largest population and are spread over the largest geographic area of any aboriginal group in Canada. In the 1990s, Cree living in North Quebec waged strong opposition to the province's James Bay hydroelectric project, but in 2002 they negotiated an agreement with Quebec that permitted partial hydroelectric development, mining, and logging in exchange for jobs and $3.5 billion in financing. The agreement also recognized the autonomy of the Cree as a native nation. In 1990 there were over 8,000 Cree in the United States, some of them sharing a reservation in Montana with the Ojibwa.




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