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Traditional Life

“…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

Cree man 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 Algonquin-speaking Cree both Plains Cree and Woodland Cree, collectively known as the Nehiyawak) and Saulteaux (Anishinaabe, Chippewa, or Plains Ojibwa), the Siouan- speaking Nakoda (Assiniboine or Stoney), and the Athapaskan- speaking Chipewyan (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 traditions.

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.


1 Alexander Morris, 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, 1991, Fifth House Publishers, Saskatoon, (Originally published 1880), 215.

Sources:
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.

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