How similar are Cree and Ojibwe

The Cree belong to the First Nations of North America, they are an indigenous people. Their territory extends from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean across parts of the United States and Canada. You describe yourself as Ayisiniwok and Aha payew - ‘True People’ or in the sense of ‘The People’ as Iniwak, Iyiniwok, Eenou, Iynu or Eeyou. Their language belongs to the Algonquin language group and is also called Cree. The Michif der Métis is related to the Cree language. With around 200,000 people, the Cree are the largest group among Canada's First Nations.

They spread westward from Hudson Bay around 1500 and immigrated, for example, to what is now Saskatchewan and further into what is now Alberta. In Alberta today there are two Cree groups, the Plains Cree, who lived in the plains or prairies, the grasslands, and the Woodland Cree, who lived in the forest areas, and accordingly they differed greatly from one another culturally. The former lived mainly from hunting buffalo, the latter from fish (white fish). But it is similar in Saskatchewan.

Our tip: a trip to the Cree in Saskatchewan - experience and encounter with culture and nature. Please ask.

PowWow - Thunderchild Cree Nation, Saskatchewan, 2008 (GW)

When the French and English set up trading posts in the 17th century - starting from the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay - the southern Assiniboine allied with the Cree. The Cree then mostly settled near the trading posts, the Assiniboine continued to live semi-nomadically. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Assiniboine and Cree formed a military alliance - the Cree Confederation - and later joined forces with the Plains-Ojibwe.
This alliance enabled the allied tribes from 1680 to set up an extensive canoe trading system along Lake Winnipeg and the Nelson River, Rainy Lake, Lake of the Woods, Winnipeg River and Lake Winnipeg northeast to the York Factory on Hudson Bay. Many Cree groups settled in the vicinity of the trading posts in order to get the goods that were important to them (iron goods, dishes, weapons and flour) and then to start trading with the tribes in the west (Blackfoot, Gros Ventre, Sarcee) ), in the north (Chipewyan, Dogrib) and in the south (Hidatsa, Mandan) as possible. So they traded with the Indians away from the forts for furs that they could offer the Europeans, especially the Hudson’s Bay and the North West Company.
Several severe smallpox epidemics hit the Cree and Assiniboine and the other communities severely, more than half of the Cree died, and influenza epedemics also had a devastating effect.
The monopoly of trade and the fur trade created competition between the First Nations, there were armed conflicts and the Cree-Assinoboine alliance broke up.

The Cree, like the Blackfoot, made their living from hunting the American bison, also known as the buffalo. For various reasons, however, the number of bison continued to decline. From around 1850 onwards, bison were almost exclusively found in the area of ​​Blackfoot. In 1870, the Cree made a final attempt to get hold of their prey by waging a war. But they were defeated in the battle (near Lethbridge) and lost over 300 warriors. The next winter, hunger forced them to negotiate with their opponents with whom they made peace, and they also entered into negotiations with Canada, which was founded in 1867. They had to give up their lifestyle and become farmers, but they asked for help with the transition and only wanted to accept white settlers on this condition.

In the years 1874 to 1876 Canada and the Cree signed several of the so-called Numbered Treaties, more precisely the contracts with the numbers 4, 5 and 6. Until about 1880, small groups tried to continue to hunt buffalo, and moved on until after Montana.

The number of European settlers rose sharply and the Cree were displaced, assimilated and the history of the Cree tribes was forgotten! The Cree were almost driven out by the whites, contracts were soon broken again and the immigrants demanded the withdrawal of the Cree - e.g. in 1877 near Edmonton on the North Saskatchewan River. The settlers also influenced public opinion very strongly through newspapers and spread lies about the Cree and other First Nations. Even the reserves were quickly viewed as inappropriately large and repeatedly downsized by legislation in favor of public buildings. The Cree were increasingly expropriated.

Last but not least, the Cree suffered particularly from the residential schools, boarding schools that were supposed to re-educate the children of the First Nations to become 'whites' far from their families. They were banned from their language, religion and traditional clothing under appalling conditions and tried to uproot and alienate their communities under punishment. For several generations, state and church tried to wipe out entire cultures through these schools!
The state commissioned the churches (especially the Catholic Church and the forerunners of the United Church of Canada) to run these schools - under the auspices of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and based on the Indian Act of 1876.
The former boarding school students and their descendants still suffer from the trauma of the residential schools today. The state gave some so-called compensation of a financial nature, which, however, cannot make good the crimes.

For example, you can find detailed information about residential schools here:

You can read more about the history of the Cree here:

The school system, which has been built up since the late 1970s, conveys the language and culture of the Cree. The first language is Cree, with its own script, later French and English are available. Numerous places now have Cree names (again). Most of the Cree organizations have moved from Val-d'Or to the Baie-James area. The news magazine The Nation, an important regional forum for discourse, has existed since 1993.

Also on you can read in detail about the groups of the Cree and today's First Nations of the Cree.


Information on indigenous peoples here.

Mural, Saskatchewan, 2008 (GW)