The Cree are an Indigenous people from North America. Most Cree people live in Canada today. There are over 135 different bands, or communities, of Cree people in the country. And within those bands, there are over 350,000 people who have Cree ancestry. This makes the Cree the largest First Nations group in Canada! Some Cree bands also live in the United States. In the past, Cree people lived in Minnesota, Montana, and North Dakota. Today, Cree people in the United States mostly live in Montana.
Different Cree subgroups developed different lifestyles to survive in their environments. The two largest subgroups are the Plains Cree and the Woodland Cree. Each of these groups has its own lifestyle and Cree language dialect. The groups also live in different environments.
The Plains Cree live on plains across much of the middle of Canada and the United States. Plains are large, flat areas of land, usually with few trees. In the past, the Plains Cree were nomadic hunters. This means that they followed the animals they were hunting from place to place, never staying in one place for too long. The main animal they followed to hunt was the buffalo. Buffalo were one of the main foods that the Plains Cree ate. They also hunted other animals, like deer, elk, and turkeys, and ate roots and wild fruits. The Plains Cree lived in tepees, or homes made from buffalo skins. These tepees could be put up and taken down quickly, allowing the Cree to travel and bring their homes with them. The Plains Cree were also part of the “Iron Confederacy.” They were allied with other Plains bands, such as bands of the Assiniboine and the Saulteaux peoples. Today, Plains Cree bands live on reserves. These are areas of land that are set aside for Indigenous people to live on. There are many Plains Cree reserves in south-central Saskatchewan in Canada. Many of the Plains Cree people on these reserves speak the Plains Cree dialect. These Plains Cree bands keep the Plains Cree traditions alive.
The Woodland Cree live a different lifestyle, in a different region from the Plains Cree. The Woodland Cree live in a forested part of Canada, mostly northeast of the plains. This region is different from the plains, with many trees, rather than flat, open spaces. Traditionally, the Woodland Cree used these trees to build their houses. The Woodland Cree lived in wigwams, also known as birchbark houses. These dome-shaped buildings were built using the bark from birch trees, which are common trees in the forests of Canada. Unlike the nomadic Plains Cree, the Woodland Cree usually stayed in one location longer. They hunted fish and small game, like squirrel, deer, and beaver. The Woodland Cree also gathered different kinds of vegetables and fruits. Some of the most common fruits and vegetables they ate were pumpkins, squash, and beans. Like the Plains Cree in Canada, the Woodland Cree live on reserves in Canada today. Most of these reservations are in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba.