Tribes of Canada
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Cree. Contracted from
Kristinaux, the French form of Kenistenoag, given as a name they
applied to themselves. Also called:
Ana, Annah, Ennas, Eta, various forms of an Athapascan word, meaning
Iyiniwok, or Nehiyawok, own name, meaning "those of the first race."
Nathehwy-within-yoowuc, meaning "southern men" (Franklin, 1823).
Nehiyaw, Chippewa name.
O'pimmitish Ininiwuc, meaning "men of the woods."
Shahe´, Hidatsa name.
Saie´kuun, Siksika name.
Sha-i-yé, or Shi-é-ya, Assiniboin name, meaning "enemies."
Shi-e-á-la, Dakota name.
Southern Indians, by the Hudson Bay traders.
Connections. The Cree are one of the type people of one of
the two greatest divisions of the Algonquian linguistic family.
Location. When the Cree first came to the knowledge of
Europeans they extended from James Bay to the Saskatchewan, the Tête
de Boule of the upper Ottawa forming a detached branch. For their
later extensions see History below.
A major distinction is usually drawn between the
Paskwawininiwug (Plains Cree) and Sakawininiwug (Woodland Cree). The
former are subdivided into the Sipiwininiwug (River Cree) and
Mamikininiwug (Lowland Cree). Hayden (1862) gives the following band
names, nearly all said to have been derived from the name of a
chief: Apistekaihe, Cokah, Kiaskusis, Mataitaikeok, Muskwoikakenut,
Muskwoikauepawit, Peisiekan, Piskakauakis, Shemaukau,
Wikyuwamkamusenaikata. These are probably identical in part with the
following bands of Plains Cree given by Skinner (1914):
Katepoisipi-wünuûk (Calling River (Qu'Appelle) Band) also called
Kagiciwuinuwuk (Loud Voices Band, from their famous chief),
Wabuswaianûk (Rabbit Skins), Mämäkitce-wünuûk (Big Gizzard People),
Paskokopa-wünuûk (Willow People), Nutimi-iniuûk (Poplar People),
Cipiwiniuûk (River People), Saka-winouûk (Bush People), Masnipiwinûk
(Painted or Pictured People), "Little Dogs," (Piapot's Band),
Asinskau-winiuûk (Stone People), Tcipoaian-winiuûk (Chipewyan
People), Niopwätûk (Cree-Assiniboine), Sakbwatsûk (Bush Assiniboine).
Skinner (1914) expresses uncertainty as to whether the names of the
last three were nicknames due to intimacy between the bands so
designated and the foreign tribes mentioned, or whether the tribes
themselves were of mixed ancestry. For the following names of bands
of the Woodland Cree I am indebted to Dr. John M. Cooper (personal
information): Barren Ground Cree (on the west side of James Bay at
its entrance), Fort Albany Band (on the lower course of Albany
River), Kesagami Lake Band (at the southern end of James Bay), Moose
Factory Band (the Monsoni proper), on the lower course of Moose
River, Northern Tête de Boule (at the head of St. Maurice River),
Southern Tête de Boule (on the middle course of St. Maurice River).
This list is incomplete, leaving out of consideration particularly
the bands later formed toward the west, though two of these latter
were the Sakittawawininiwug (Cree of Cross Lake) and the
Ayabaskawininiwug (Athabaska Lake Cree). It must not be supposed
that any of these have had a connected history from early times.
They represent, for the most part, the later rearrangement following
on the establishment of trading posts. However, the location of some
of them was no doubt determined in the first instance by that of the
old bands or by the same geographic advantages originally
responsible for them. (See section on History.)
History. The Cree were known to French traders and
missionaries as early as the first half of the seventeenth century,
and about the end of that century they rose to a position of
importance owing to the use made of them as guides and hunters in
the prosecution of the fur trade. The English first came in contact
with them through the posts of the Hudson's Bay Company established
in their territory on Hudson Bay beginning in 1667 and for a time
there was great rivalry between the French and English for their
favor and patronage. At an early period the Cree formed an alliance
with the Assiniboin, who wished to be on good terms with them so
that they could have access to the Hudson Bay posts where they could
obtain guns and powder to assist them in their wars with their
kindred, the Dakota. This alliance also enabled the Cree to push
southward as far as Red River and territories of the present United
States. Acquisition of rifles and the impetus given by the fur trade
also induced them to undertake adventurous journeys to the west and
north. A party of Cree reached the delta of the Mackenzie River just
before Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and other Cree bands were raiding
the Sekani up the Peace River into the Rocky Mountains at the same
time. Today there are many of the Cree descendants in the north and
west, around Little Slave Lake, at Hudson Hope on Peace River, along
the Lower Peace, and on Lake Athabaska and Slave River down to Great
Slave Lake. The trails they blazed in their raids were followed by
Mackenzie and other fur-traders. There is a little band among the
Sarsi, and they have mingled their blood with every Plains tribe,
even including the Blackfeet.1
Their later history has been closely bound up with the activities of
the Hudson's Bay and Northwest Fur Companies, and though Europeans
and European influence have steadily filtered into their country,
the utility of the Cree in the promotion and preservation of the fur
trade has prevented that displacement and depletion so common among
the tribes of the United States.
Population. Mooney (1928) estimated 20,000 Cree at the period
of first white contact, including 5,000 Monsoni and related peoples
in 1600 and 15,000 Cree proper and Maskegon in 1670. This agrees
very closely with another estimate for the year 1776. At the present
day they are supposed to number all told about 10,000.
Connection in which they have become noted. The principal
claim of the Cree to notoriety has been in connection with the
activities of the Hudson's Bay Company and the fur trade.
Footnote 1 For much of this
information I am indebted to Mr. D. Jenness, formerly Chief of the
Anthropological Division of the National Museum of Canada, Ottawa,