Manitoba Pageant, Autumn 1970, Volume 16, Number 1
The Cree are scattered today throughout the northern portions of six provinces from Newfoundland (Labrador) to Alberta. In the days of the fur trade they were primarily a forest people who lived in small family groups. Some of the western Cree who ventured into the plains became successful buffalo hunters. They prospered and multiplied, lived in large bands, and in the course of time became known as the Plain Cree.
The Swampy Cree or Muskegon, the Home Indians of the Hudson's Bay Company, inhabited the swamp area north of Lake Winnipeg. Their close relatives the Wood Cree occupied the territory between Moose River (Ontario) and the central and northern portions of Lake Winnipeg.
Though the Cree are all of Algonkian stock, there were originally several differences between the three divisions, the most noticeable being linguistic, behavioral, and dress. Linguistic differences have persisted to the present day.
All the Cree in Manitoba today, probably 16,000 or more, are classified as Swampy Cree.
The Saulteaux, like the Cree, are of Algonkian stock. It is generally assumed that they came to Manitoba in the early years of the 1700s during a migration westward from Sault Ste. Marie, hence Saulteaux. In Ontario they are called Ojibwa, in Minnesota and Wisconsin they are known as Chippewas.
The Ojibwa were once the strongest numerically of all the Algonkian people, and they occupied the lake and river frontages from Lake Huron to Lake of the Woods and into Manitoba's Whiteshell. They are now spread down the eastern flank of the province from Berens River to Roseau River - and in other places.
There are now twenty-seven Saulteaux bands in Manitoba with a total population of some 16,000.
The original Sioux in Manitoba, the Assiniboine, were a dismembered branch of the Dakota (Dakotah) family, the name meaning "allies" or an "alliance of friends."
The Sioux in Manitoba today are the descendents of the refugees who sought asylum in Canada following the Minnesota Massacres of 1861 and the Indian War of 1876.
There are four Sioux bands in Manitoba, the Birdtail Sioux at Uno, the Long Plain Sioux at Portage la Prairie, the Oak Lake Sioux at Pipestone, and the Oak River Sioux at Griswold.
Their total strength is about 1,500.
The Chipewyan are of Athapascan stock. They once held sway throughout a large area in Northern Manitoba and occupied all the territory north of Churchill River as far west as Great Slave Lake. The Chipewyan at the height of their strength might have numbered 3,500, but many were killed in skirmishes with the Eskimo and the Cree, and many were destroyed by smallpox.
There may be some 1,000 Chipewyan left in Canada today. Only two bands are left in Manitoba, one at Brochet and the other at Churchill.
Their total strength in Manitoba is about 700.
Page revised: 19 July 2009Back to top of page