Cree Nation

The Cree nation defines itself as Ndooheenou – a nation of hunters. In fact the ancestors of the Cree - Eeyou Istchee (Land of The People) population have occupied the territory ob James Bay for nearly 5,000 years. Their traditional way of life is based on hunting, fishing and trapping.

The Cree have traveled through this vast territory, and became familiar with it, subsisting mainly on flora and wildlife from the sea and the forest. In the past the Cree followed the seasons and animal migrations. Among big game, caribou was their favourite prey.

The caribou supplied them with food and provided essential elements for making clothing, tools, snowshoes, moccasins and teepees. As for small game, goose hunting in the spring and fall contributed to filling the larder then, and still, does today, for months. Today, during Gosse Break, on the major traditional activities observed by the Cree, the whole family returns to the nomadic lifestyle for two weeks. In the summer months, fishing is in full swing in the coastal bays and rivers estuaries. As autumn time, comes the period for picking berries, small fruits and other plants.

The Cree use them not only as food, but also as ingredients in medicine and dyes. The first contacts with Europeans date from the beginning of the 17th century, when the Cree nation becomes involved in the fur trade which lasted for nearly 300 years. Since then, the Cree changed their lifestyle. To meet the demands of the fur trade, they set aside big game hunting and their nomadic way of life. Trapping became a major activity.

The trading post sites are founded through the territory. Today, though some Crees still make a living from trapping and other traditional activities such as hunting and fishing, modern life has considerably changed the behaviour of hunters and trappers. They now travel by showmobile or all-terrain vehicles, depending on the season. Besides, the transformation of the landscape caused by mining and logging activities and all the more by the construction of huge hydroelectric facilities and roads since the 1970ies, has significantly affected day-to-day life and traveling related to seasonal activities for the Cree.

Since the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, signed in 1975, the Cree are working to revitalise their traditions and language while providing community members with the benefits of modern life, especially in the areas of health, education, economics and housing. The Agreement gives the Cree exclusive or shared access, depending on the case, to territories they previously occupied alone, where they can practice traditional hunting, fishing and trapping.

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