The Cree are the largest group of Aboriginal people in Canada today. They have occupied a wide area of what is now Canada for thousands of years. They live in many parts of Canada, from northern Quebec and Ontario to the Prairies. The Cree people of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are known as the "Plains Cree" and make up a large percentage of the First Nations population of the Prairie provinces. Plains Cree once lived on the prairies, hunted buffalo, and traded with other Aboriginal people and Europeans. Today, they live in towns and cities as well as on reserves.
The name Cree comes from a French word, Kristinaux, shortened to Kri. The Plains Cree call themselves Nehiyawak. Long ago, the Cree lived in the woodlands. Then some moved to the prairies, a perfect environment for buffalo. The people and the huge herds of animals they followed lived for much of the year on the open areas of grasslands then found in central North America. Today, most of the tall grass prairie has disappeared and the few remaining buffalo are in special parks, but the Cree people are numerous. They changed their way of life when they needed to, and found ways to survive.
buffalo: a large horned mammal, also called the North American bison, which lives on the prairies
reserves: special areas of land set aside for First Nations people in Canada