is home to both the Plains Cree and the Woodland
or Bush Cree.
The word most Cree people would use to describe themselves is Nehiyawak, or
Traditionally considered excellent hunters and trappers, the term "Cree" most likely originated
from a French term of unknown origin, "Kristineaux."
The Woodland Cree, or Swampy Cree, are the
largest Aboriginal group in northern Alberta and speak a language
that is derived from the Algonquian linguistic group.
The Woodland Cree were one of the first nations to trade with European fur traders, as early as
The Plains Cree originated in the east and moved to the south
and west through their involvement
in the fur trade. There is evidence that indicates the Cree have lived in the parkland
regions of the west for some time, perhaps as long as 12 000 years.
By 1800, the Cree were well
established in what is now known as the province of Alberta, from the Athabasca and Peace
River deltas in the north, along the Peace River and south as
far as the Saskatchewan River.
the good relations between the Cree people's and the fur traders, the
settlement of the west had an enormous impact on the lives of the
Cree people and proved to be a formidable challenge to their
traditional hunter-gatherer society. The
Klondike Gold Rush, which began in the late 1890s, brought hundreds of gold seekers
into the Peace River region, and caused shortages in local food
resources. Tensions between the First Nations people of the area
and the prospectors were heightened and complaints from First Nations people, fur traders, and Northwest Mounted Police (NWMP)
finally resulted in a decision by the Federal government to make
treaty with the First Nations peoples in that region. In 1899 the
government dispatched the Treaty 8 commission. After several days'
negotiations held at present-day Grouard on Lesser Slave Lake, Chief Kinosayo (Keenooshayoo) and headman Moostoos
treaty on behalf of the Cree bands in the area. Other bands farther north also took treaty, but it
required several adhesions the following year.
The Cree people are located primarily in the
Treaty 8 area. A small percentage of them continue
to maintain their traditional lifestyle of hunting, gathering and
trapping. An even smaller percentage of Cree live in the northern bush lands today. More and more are
moving to urban centres and entering the contemporary workforce.
While many Cree have a heritage rooted in the bush land culture, they
are also active participants within contemporary society and
pursue educational opportunities and are active in a range of
professions while still retaining strong emotional and ceremonial ties
to Cree ways.
For some, these ties will fade from one generation
to another, but current work to revitalize the traditions,
particularly in language and spiritual practice is taking place.
This is evident in school programs, at the elementary, secondary
and post-secondary levels. In combining traditional learning
and expression with contemporary educational goals, many Cree
people believe they have the best of both
For more information on First Nations issues and history,
please visit some of the following websites: