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Article: Cree People

The name Cree comes from the word French fur traders used for the First Nations people near James Bay. The French called these people Kristineaux, their adaptation of the name these people called themselves. Kristineaux became shortened to Kri, spelled Cree in English. Most Cree use this name only when speaking or writing in English. Canada has several groups of Cree-speaking people. In Alberta there are the Woodland Cree and the Plains Cree.
Although there is evidence to indicate that the Cree have lived in the parkland regions of the west for sometime, the Plains Cree originated in the east and moved to the Plains through their involvement in the fur trade. While the term "Cree" most likely originated from a French name of unknown origin, Kristineaux, their own term is Nehiyawak or "exact people." There are many branches of the Cree nation spread across the country and are typically divided into the Plains Cree, Woodland Cree, Swampy Cree and Moose Cree. Originally they were all woodland people and spoke the Algonquian language of Eastern Canada.

The last of the buffalo in the Plains Cree country were killed off about the year 1880. During the three decades prior to that date, the tribal culture was a full-fledged Plains way of life, sharing almost all of the traits and complexes commonly regarded as appertaining to the buffalo hunters of the northern plains. Yet, the historic literature and tribal traditions make it clear that the Cree were recent arrivals in the prairie country, coming in as invaders from the north and east.

The Cree are North American Indians who spoke an Algonquian language and formerly inhabited the boreal forests south and west of the Hudson Bay and Lake Nipigon regions of Canada. As hunters and prime suppliers of pelts, they were early drawn into the fur trade with the French and English. By the mid-17th century a series of western and northern migrations were underway that eventually saw Cree bands scattered from near Lake Mistissani in northern Quebec to the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.

Their extensive migrations and fur-trapping activities brought them into frequent conflict with their tribal neighbors. Allied with the Assiniboin in Manitoba, they drove the Skisika and their allies from the Saskatchewan River valley. Three distinctive groups evolved the Woodland Cree, the Swampy Cree, and the Plains Cree, the latter subsisting as mounted buffalo-hunters on the northern plains. Many of the Plains Cree intermarried with the French, creating the distinctive metis subculture of the Red River valley. In 1986 the Cree population was estimated to number about 122,000.