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Woodland Cree

George and Christine Noskiye and Isabel NetawastanumThe Woodland Cree were traditionally centred around the Hudson’s Bay area in eastern Canada, but after becoming involved with the European fur trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Cree pushed into the northwest thereby driving tribes like the Slavey and Beaver out of their traditional lands. Traditional life for the Cree involved the hunting of snowshoe hares that could lead to periods of famine for the Cree when hare populations declined. Depending on their availability, animals like moose and caribou were also sought. Typical shelters consisted of birchbark wigwams in the south, and hide covered teepees in the north. The skill of Cree as hunters and trappers made them a valued ally to the Europeans during the fur trade.

Spiritual belief among the Cree included a belief in spirits, in enlisting the aid of animal spirits on a hunt, and in rites of passage for youth. Medicine bundles were taken on hunts in order to secure a good catch of game.

Because the Cree are the largest and most widespread of all Aboriginal groups in Canada, it comes as no surprise that various Cree bands across the country are included in numerous Treaties with the Federal Government. Treaties 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10 all include bands of Cree People.

Today, the Cree number at over 200,000 across Canada, and are the largest Aboriginal group in the country in terms of population. Like other northwest Aboriginal Peoples, the Cree were affected by the development of heavy industries and service communities in the north. Change has challenged Cree communities to seek ways to adapt and preserve traditional folkways in a changing world.

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††††††††††† For more on Aboriginal hunters and trappers in Canadaís northwest Boreal forest, visit Peelís Prairie Provinces.
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