Cree is one of the largest
group of First Nations/Aboriginal in North America, located mainly across Canada.
States, this Algonquian-speaking people lived historically
from Minnesota westward. Today they live mostly in Montana.
The Cree Nation is generally divided into 8 tribes (major
Naskapi and II Montagnais (sections of Innu) are inhabitants of an area they refer to as
Nitassinan, which comprises most of what
other Canadians refer to as eastern Quebec and Labrador.
Their population in 2003 includes
about 18,000 people, of which 15,000 live in Quebec.
Attikamekw are inhabitants of
the area they refer to as Nitaskinan ("Our Land"), in the upper St. Maurice valley of
Quebec (about 300 km north of Montreal).
Their population currently stands at around 4500.
James Bay Cree- Grand Council of the Crees the
approximately 16,357 Crees or “Iyyu” (Coastal Dialect)/ “Iynu”
(Inland dialect) of the James
Bay and Nunavik regions of
V Moose Cree - Moose Factory, Ontario in the Cochrane District, Ontario.
It is on Moose Factory Island, near the
mouth of the Moose River
, which is at
the southern end of James Bay.
Swampy Cree in northern Manitoba along the Hudson Bay coast and adjacent inland areas to the south and
west, and Ontario along the coast of Hudson Bay and James
It has 4,500 speakers.
Woods Cree group in northern Alberta.
Plains Cree 34,000 people in Manitoba,
Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Montana.
However, the Cree referred to themselves collectively as
(those who speak our language). They called
themselves "Cree" only when speaking English
American bison hunters and horsemen,
the Plains Cree were allied with the Assiniboine and the Saulteaux before encountering English, Scots
(especially Orcadian) and French settlers in the 16th
Cree camp south of Vermilion, Alberta,
The name "Cree" is an exonym
derived from the
(also as Knistenaux
and many other variations) that is commonly
shortened to "Cri", after their village of Kenisteniwak
However, among the Cree, depending on the community, they may call
themselves the Nehiyaw, Nehithaw, Nehilaw, Nehinaw, Ininiw, Ililiw,
or Iyyu. These peoples can be divided into
two major groups: those who identify themselves using a derivative
of their historical appellation
(meaning "[those who] speak our Nation's
language") and those identifying themselves using a derivative of
their historical appellation Iliniw
(meaning "person" or
Both groups share a common ancestry but are now divided mainly
along linguistic lines. Those residing west of the Ontario border to the Rocky
Mountains tend to call themselves the first name,
Nehilaw. The second group includes the Rocky Cree
sub-group of the Swampy Cree and one group residing in Quebec, who are
mistakenly called Attikamek but
who self-identify as Nehiraw, plus
all the groups east of James
Bay, who tend to call themselves Iliniw, the
term for man.
language (also known as Cree-Montagnais, Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi)
is the name for a group of closely related Algonquian languages spoken by
approximately 117,000 people across Canada, from
Northwest Territories to Labrador, making it the
most widely spoken aboriginal
language in Canada.
Despite numerous speakers within
this wide area, the only region where Cree has official status
is in the Northwest
Territories alongside eight other aboriginal languages.
The aforementioned two major groups speak a mutually intelligible
Cree dialect continuum
, which can
be divided by many criteria. In a dialect continuum, "It is not so
much a language, as a chain of dialects, where speakers from one
community can very easily understand their neighbours, but a Plains
Cree speaker from Alberta would find a Québec Cree speaker
difficult to speak to without practice."
One major division between the groups is that the Eastern group
the sound /k/ to either /ts/
(c) or to /tʃ/ (č) when it precedes front
. There is also a major difference in grammatical
vocabulary (particles) between the groups. Within both groups,
another set of variations has arisen around the pronunciation of
the Proto-Algonquian phoneme *l
, which can be realized
as /l/, /r/, /y/, /n/ or /ð/ (th) by different groups. Yet in other
dialects, the distinction between /e:/ (ē) and /i:/ (ī) has been
lost, merging to the latter. In more western dialects, the
distinction between /s/ and /ʃ/ (š) has been lost, both merging to
If you compare the consonants /p/ /t/ /c/ and /k/* to their English
counterparts, it is noticeable that there is little distinction of
voicing. In English, voicing marks the difference of meaning in
words such as bin : pin. Since there is not distinction of voicing
in Cree, it is common for variants of /t/ to sound more like /d/
without any difference in meaning.
Nehiyaw Girl (1928).
The Cree are the largest group of First
in Canada, with over 200,000 members and 135 registered
bands. This population may be due to the Cree's traditional
openness to inter-tribal marriage. Together, their reserve lands
are the largest of any First Nations group in the country.
largest Cree band and the second largest First Nations Band in
Canada after the Six Nations Iroquois is
the Lac La Ronge Band in
Métis - any person of mixed ancestry) are people of mixed ancestry,
such as Nehiyaw (or Anishinaabe) and French
heritage. According to
Indian and Northern
, the Métis were historically the children of
French fur traders and Nehiyaw women or, from unions of English or
Scottish traders and northern Dene
). Generally in
academic circles, the term Métis
used to refer to any combination of persons of mixed Native
American and European heritage, although historical definitions for
Métis remain. Canada's Indian and Northern Affairs broadly define
Métis as those persons of mixed First Nation and European
In the United States
one time located in northern Minnesota, North
Dakota and Montana, today the
Cree population in the United States can be found as part of the
Chippewa Cree tribe, located on the
Indian Reservation in Montana.
The reservation is shared with
the Pembina Band of
who form the "Chippewa" half of the Chippewa
Cree tribe. Traditionally, the southern limits of the
Cree Territory in the United States were the Missouri
River and the Milk River in
Cree First Nation communities
1 Naskapi (Iyiyiw
2 Eastern Montagnais (Innu
2 Western Montagnais (Nehilaw
3 Atikamekw (Nehiraw
4 Northern James Bay Cree (Iyiyiw
4 Southern James Bay Cree (Iyniw
5 Moose Cree (Mōsonī
6 Swampy Cree (Maškēkowak
7 Rocky Cree (Asinīskāwiyiniwak
7 Woods Cree (Sakāwithiniwak
8 Plains Cree (Paskwāwiyiniwak
Mähsette Kuiuab, chief of the Cree
- Janice Acoose, author, Sakimay
(Saulteaux) and Ninankawe Marival Metis ancestry
- Irene Bedard, actress
- Harold Cardinal, writer,
political leader, teacher, and lawyer
- Lorne Cardinal, actor
- Tantoo Cardinal, actor
- Jonathan Cheechoo, NHL hockey
- Michael Greyeyes, actor
- Tomson Highway, playwright,
librettist of the first Cree language opera
- Delia Opekokew, lawyer and
- Bronson Pelletier, actor
- Buffy Sainte-Marie,
- Cree Summer, singer/actress
- Gordon Tootoosis, actor
- Shania Twain, singer/songwriter
born to a father of Cree heritage, adopted by Ojibwa stepfather as a baby.
See: Cree people
- Moose Cree First Nation community profile
- "[T]heir native name", see David Thompson, Travels in
Western North America 1784-1812
- David Pentland, "Synonymy", in Handbook of North American
Indians, vol. 6, June Helm, ed., Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1981, p.
Thompson recorded "The French Canadians...call them 'Krees', a
name which none of the Indians can pronounce...", "Life with the
Nahathaways", in David Thompson: Travels in Western North
America 1784-1812, Victor G. Hopwood, ed., Toronto: Macmillan
of Canada, 1971, p. 109.
- Edward S. Curtis, The North American
Indian - Uncorrected OCR Text for volume 18
- David H. Pentland, "Synonymy", in "West Main Cree", in
Handbook of North American Indians, June Helm, ed.,
Smithsonian Institution 1981, Washington, D.C., v. 6, p. 227.
- Statistics Canada: 2006 Census
- Northwest Territories Official Languages Act,
1988 (as amended 1988, 1991-1992, 2003)
- The western group of languages includes Swampy Cree, Woods Cree
and Plains Cree. The eastern language is called Moose Cree. See
"Languages of Canada", Ethnologue: Languages of the World,
http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=canada, accessed 21
- "Cree", Language Geek, accessed 21 September
- * Most dialects have these consonants.
- Wolfart, H. C., and Janet F. Carroll. Meet Cree: A Guide to
the Language : Second Edition, New York: University of
- Source: Canadian Geographic
- Moose Cree First Nation community profile
Sacred Legends of the Sandy Lake Cree. James R. Stevens, McClelland
and Stewart Ltd, 1971