April 29, 2016

2500 CANADA (Alberta) - The Cree

The Cree (autonym: nehiyawak) are the most populous and widely distributed First Nations in Canada, with over 317,000 members (2015) living in the Subarctic region from Alberta to Quebec, as well as portions of the Plains region in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Moving from west to east their main divisions, based on environment and dialect, are the Plains (Alberta and Saskatchewan), Woods (Saskatchewan and  Manitoba), Swampy (Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario), Moose (Ontario) and James Bay/Eastern (Québec) Cree. In the United States, they live mostly in Montana.

Their language belongs to the Algonquian language family, and the people historically had relations with other Algonquian-speaking nations, most directly with the Innu (Montagnais-Naskapi), Algonquin and Ojibwa. As hunter-gatherers, the basic unit of organization were the lodge, a group of perhaps eight or a dozen people, usually the families of two separate but related married couples, who lived together in the same wigwam (domed tent) or tipi (conical tent)), and the band, a group of lodges who moved and hunted together.

People could be identified by their clan, which is a group of people claiming descent from the same common ancestor; each clan would have a representative and a vote in all important councils held by the band. Each band remained independent of each other. When a band went to war, they would nominate a temporary military commander, called a okimahkan, loosely translated as "war chief." This office was different from that of the "peace chief", a leader who had a role more like that of diplomat. In Canada are  135 registered bands.

For thousands of years the ancestors of the Cree were spread over much of the woodland area that they still occupy. After the arrival of Europeans, participation in the fur trade pushed Swampy Cree into the Plains. During this time many Cree remained in the boreal forest and the tundra area to the north, where a stable culture persisted. They lived by hunting moose, caribou, smaller game, geese, ducks and fish, travelled by canoe in summer and by snowshoes and tobogganin in winter, clothed in animal skins and making tools from wood, bone, hide and stone.

Later, during the fur trade period, they traded meat, furs and other goods in exchange for metal tools, twine and European goods. Plains Cree exchanged the canoe for horses, and subsisted primarily through the buffalo hunt, and developed cultural practices, like the Sun Dance, separately from their Subarctic relations. Religious life was based on relations with animal and other spirits which revealed themselves in dreams. Although the ideal was communal and egalitarian, some individuals were regarded as more powerful, both in the practical activities and in the spiritual activities (Shamans).

About the stamp
The stamp is part of the series Canadian Eskimos (Inuits) - Hunting, issued on November 18, 1977.

Cree - Wikipedia
Cree - The Canadian Encyclopedia

Sender: Denise Forsythe (direct swap)
Sent from LaSalle (Ontario / Canada), on 27.04.2013

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