Information on the Plains Cree Indians
Recorded by Members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
The following excerpts from the journals of Lewis and Clark and their men present a picture of the Plains Cree people as the Anglo-Americans saw them. The modern reader must be careful to understand that what these white men saw and recorded was not necessarily correct from the Indian perspective.
The following passages have been freely adapted and excerpted from the original texts, and the spelling has been corrected to make them easier to read. For students wishing to quote these passages, the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, edited by Gary Moulton and published by the University of Nebraska Press, is the recommended source. For those who wish more in-depth information about Lewis and Clark's relations with various Indian tribes, including background from the Indian perspective, the best book is James P. Ronda's Lewis and Clark among the Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. The very best way to obtain accurate information from the tribal perspective is to contact tribal councils for individual tribes - in other words, to consult the people themselves.
The name Cree was an abbreviated form of Kristinaux, the French version of a Cree name for themselves, Kenistenoag. They were of the Algonquian language family. The Plains Crees were buffalo-hunting people whose range was almost entirely in Canada, north of the Assiniboins and the Sioux. Clark's statement that they "Speak the Chippewa" refered to the Chippewas, or Ojibways, who also spoke an Algonquian tongue. The Crees were important trading partners with the French and later the British in Canada. The adoption Clark refers to was apparently to insure good treatment of the visitors during trading. The Crees live in several Canadian provinces today and also share a reservation in Montana with the Chippewas.
Chairperson, Chippewa Cree Business Committee
Rocky Boy Route - P.O. Box 544
Box Elder, Montana 59521
14th of November, Wednesday 1804
Only two Indians visited us today owing to a dance at the village last night in concluding a ceremony of adoption, and interchange of property, between the Assiniboins, and the nations of this neighborhood. Our interpreter [Jusseaume] informs that 70 lodges, one of 3 bands of Assiniboins & some Christinoes are at the Mandan Village. The Christinoes are about 300 men speak the Chippewa Language. They live near Fort Des Prairies.