The Cree lived in Northern Woodlands for years. Life in Woodlands depended on hunting which was hard during tough winters. Eventually the Cree moved onto the prairies finding buffalo hunt much easier and more reliable. There they allied with Assiniboine and fought against the Blackfoot and allies. In the planes, they spread from northern Alberta to the Peace river, through the Blackfoot territory to the Missouri river. Since they lived in a vast and different regions, the Cree has different names such as Woods Cree who lived in parts of what is now called Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Plains Cree who lived in Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan, and Swampy Cree who lived in Manitoba, Ontario and Québec. In this section we will be talking about the Plains Cree.
Europeans not only brought guns and a new culture with them, but also many new diseases to which the aboriginal tribes were not exposed to before. The spread of small pox decimated many tribes. Cree was one of the surviving tribes due to their large numbers and wide geographical range. Cree mingled with other tribes very quickly adopting their customs and lifestyles. Cree is the largest aboriginal population of Canada. The arrival of Europeans have affected their traditional life style which depended on the land, plants, and buffalo mainly.
Elders held the responsibility of keeping the memory, history, and knowledge. They possessed the understanding of traditional teachings which were developed through centuries of experience, and shared them through simple, meaningful stories to help people to make better decisions. Elders played a key role in families and in community. Cree clothing included jackets and moccasins made of hide, mittens made of fur, and robes made of buffalo skin. Hunting provided food, hides, bone needles, and sinew for sewing. Some clothing has intricate decorations of beads which came from trade with Europeans. Before the arrival of Europeans, the Cree used buffalo teeth, horns, bear claws, quills for decorations and jewelry. Just like Blackfeet they preserved meet as jerkeys, and pemmican which is a mixture of dried meat, fat, and berries pounded together into a paste.
Like every other tribes Cree lived in this land for years without horses. Horses came with Europeans, and tribes possessed them through trade. They became very important in Plains Cree culture. Raiding other tribes for horses became a part of men's social status. Horses symbolized power, and status in Cree culture. A fast horse could help men to collect food fast, and feed more number of people.
Cree culture has undergone so many changes. They still value their customs and traditions as guidelines to live in harmony with nature. Understanding the aboriginal people's relationship with the Earth and the nature is very relevant in these modern days, especially when the modern societies are working hard to reduce pollution and global warming.