The Cree

Information about the Swampy Cree Indians.


The Cree can trace their earliest origins to the James Bay region of northern Quebec. The arrival of European fur traders into the James Bay area in the 1600s prompted the Cree to use their trapping and river navigation skills to secure a place for themselves as animal pelt suppliers. The trading of European goods brought about a shift in the traditional way of life for the Cree, as access to European firearms gave them a sudden advantage in hunting and warfare. Traditional Cree tools were gradually replaced by European-made implements. The Cree also traded extensively with the Nakoda (Assiniboine) People and forged a close alliance with them during the 1600s. Trading partnerships for the Cree often led to kinship alliances with those with whom they traded, and intermarriage with other Aboriginal peoples was common.

The depletion of fur-bearing animals pushed the fur trade west to the woodland regions of modern day Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, and the Cree moved and expanded their territory alongside it. By the early 1700s, the Cree had shifted south, out of the northern woodlands, living part of the year hunting bison on the plains, while spending winters in the north trapping for animal pelts. Eventually, some bands of Cree separated and became culturally distinct from the Woodland Cree. The Plains Cree opted to live a permanent life on the plains, expanding south, displacing some existing peoples in the region while establishing trade and military alliances with others.

The Cree

House of Stuart Khunkwai