1. a member of a North American Indian people of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Montana.2. an Algonquian language, the language of the Cree Indians.
* * *One of the major Algonquian-speaking Indian peoples of Canada living mainly in Saskatchewan and Alberta.The name is a truncated form of the name "Kristineaux," the French traders' version of the self-name of the James Bay band. The Cree formerly occupied an immense area from western Quebec to eastern Alberta. They acquired firearms and engaged in the fur trade with Europeans beginning in the 17th century. There were two major divisions: the Woodland Cree, whose culture was essentially an Eastern Woodlands type, and the Plains Cree, bison hunters of the northern Great Plains (see Plains Indian). Social organization in both groups was based on local bands. Among the Woodland Cree, rituals and taboos relating to the spirits of game animals were pervasive, as was fear of witchcraft. Among the more militant Plains Cree, rites intended to foster success in warfare and the bison hunt were common. Some 600,000 Canadians claim some portion of Cree ancestry, and about 2,500 individuals claimed sole Cree descent in the 2000 U.S. census.
* * *▪ peopleone of the major Algonquian (Algonquian languages)-speaking North American Indian tribes, whose domain included an immense area from east of the Hudson and James bays to as far west as Alberta and the Great Slave Lake in what is now Canada. Originally inhabiting a smaller nucleus of this area, they expanded rapidly in the 17th and 18th centuries after engaging in the fur trade and acquiring firearms; the name Cree is a truncated form of Kristineaux, a French adaptation of the self-name of the James Bay band. Wars with the Dakota Sioux and Blackfoot and severe smallpox epidemics, notably in 1784 and 1838, reduced their numbers.At the time of Canada's colonization by the French and English, there were two major divisions of Cree; both were typical American Subarctic peoples. Traditionally, the Woodland Cree, also called Swampy Cree or Maskegon, relied for subsistence on hunting, fowling, fishing, and collecting wild plant foods. They preferred hunting larger game such as caribou, moose, bear, and beaver but relied chiefly on hare for subsistence because of the scarcity of the other animals; the periodic scarcity of hare, however, sometimes caused famine. Woodland Cree social organization was based on bands of related families, with large groups coalescing for warfare. Fears of witchcraft and a respect for a variety of taboos (taboo) and customs relating to the spirits of game animals pervaded historical Cree culture; shamans (shamanism) wielded great power.The Plains Cree lived on the northern Great Plains; like other Plains Indians (Plains Indian), their traditional economy focused on bison hunting and gathering wild plant foods. After acquiring horses and firearms, they were more militant than the Woodland Cree, raiding and warring against many other Plains tribes. Reportedly divided into 12 independent bands, each with its own chief, the Plains Cree also had a military system that integrated and organized warriors from all the bands. Religion and ceremony were highly valued as means of fostering success in war and the bison hunt. The Assiniboin were the traditional allies of both the Plains and the Woodland Cree.Early 21st-century population estimates indicated some 90,000 individuals of Cree descent.
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