“…long ago it was good when we first were made, I wish the same were back again.”
— The Man You Strike in the Back, Cree Chief of the River Band, 1876.1
For hundreds, and in some cases, thousands, of years prior to 1876, the vast land stretching east
to west across the plains and southern boreal forest of present-day central Saskatchewan and Alberta
was the hunting and camping ground of four main groups of First Nations peoples: the
both Plains Cree and Woodland Cree,
collectively known as the Nehiyawak) and Saulteaux
or Plains Ojibwa), the Siouan-
speaking Nakoda (Assiniboine
or Stoney), and the Athapaskan-
(Dene). Each of these First Peoples carved out a distinct
history in the region, each following its own unique social, political, and spiritual customs and
Aside from representing three main language groups, the First Peoples who eventually signed Treaty 6
in 1876 also represented two kinds of traditional life. The Chipewyan and the Woodland Cree lived a
traditional life in the northern woodlands (for more on this, visit our website
People of the Boreal Forest), while the Plains Cree,
Saulteaux, and Nakoda maintained their own traditional way of life on the open plains. Life in the
northern woodlands and life on the southern plains carried with them their own distinctive challenges.
The characteristics of the land shaped each First Nations peoples unique way of life.
In this section of the website we explore the histories, traditions, and customs of each of the First
Peoples who eventually signed Treaty 6. Though each of these peoples is culturally distinct, as a
collective they share an intimate and intertwining relationship with the land, with their neighbouring
peoples, and with all living and non-living things present on the land.
Morris, Alexander. The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West
Territories, including the Negotiations on which they were based, and other Information relating
thereto (1880). Saskatoon: Fifth House Publishers, 1991.