Cree Indians

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Cree Indians

This is an introduction to the Cree Indians way of life explaining about the foods they ate, significance of story telling, myths, religious beliefs, rituals performed, and their present day way of life. It is almost impossible to touch on every aspect because of what is not printed and only known by elders.

Some native words used by Cree Indians: Kiwetin meaning the north wind that brings misfortune (Gill, Sullivan 158). Another word is maskwa used for bear, the most intelligent and spiritually powerful land animal (Gill, Sullivan 182). A water lynx that holds control over lakes and rivers is called “Michi-Pichoux”; they are associated with unexplained deaths (Gill, Sullivan 189). Tipiskawipisim is used for the moon who is the sister of the sun. Once a flood destroys the first humans, Tipiskawipisim creates the first female (Gill, Sullivan 303).

The history of the Cree Indians begins where they live for the most part in Canada, and some share reservations with other tribes in North Dakota. The Cree Indians, an Alogonquian tribe sometimes called Knisteneau, were essentially forest people, though an offshoot, the so-called Plains Cree, were buffalo hunters. The Cree’s first encounter with white people was in 1640, the French Jesuits. The Cree Indians later lost many of their tribe in the 1776 break out of small pox, battles with the Sioux, and a defeat to the Blackfeet in 1870. The Cree lived by hunting, fishing, trapping, and using muskrat as one of their staples. They made sacrifices to the sun; the Great Master of Life (Erdoes, Ortiz 504).

The Cree lived in the Northern Plains, which was also home to the Sarsi, Blackfoot, Plains Ojibway, and Assiniboin. Many of the tribes were equestrian bands moving to pursue the buffalo. The buffalo was their resource for food, material for dwellings, clothing, cooking vessels, rawhide cases, and bone and horn implements. The introduction of the horse by the Spanish led to the plains Indians to become more able and skillful hunters. Each tribe had different methods of hunting, preservation, and preparation of meat (Cox, Jacobs 98).

One method of the nomadic plains tribes for cooking was to use rawhide cooking vessels which came from the hump of the buffalo, staked over a mound of earth and left to dry in the shape of a bowl. The pot was put in a shallow hole near the fire, and then carefully selected stones that would not shatter easily would be put in the fire and transferred to the bowl with wood or bone tongs to heat the contents of the pot.

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