The Plains Cree were very good at adapting to whatever environment they inhabited. By the 1800s, the Plains Cree had developed a specific way of life because of where they lived. The most important feature of their environment was the buffalo (the North American bison). The information about their daily lives that follows relates to the 1700s and 1800s, when they followed the buffalo.
The Plains Cree depended on the buffalo for most of their food. Buffalo are very large animals, weighing up to 1,000 kg each. In order to hunt them, people worked together. The men made buffalo pounds, special pens with a chute and enclosure. The bands then worked in teams to drive the animals into the pounds, where the trapped animals were killed with bows and arrows. In later years, the men used guns to shoot the animals in the pounds. The buffalo were skinned and the choice parts eaten first: the tongue, shoulder, heart and kidneys. After the rest of the meat had been carried to the camps, the women cut it into strips that they dried in the sun. Then they made the strips into the West's most important survival food, pemmican. It was made from dried pounded meat, berries and melted animal fat. Because pemmican did not go bad for a long time, and because it was so nutritious, it was a very important trade item among the Cree, Métis and European fur traders. Everyone in a band received food from a buffalo hunt, even if they had not participated. The Cree enjoyed other food -- prairie chickens, rabbits, elk, ducks, fish, turnips, blueberries, cranberries and other berries -- but their most important food was buffalo meat.
pemmican: a food made from dried, pounded buffalo meat mixed with berries and animal fat