Hurit’s Heritage: A Survey of the Cree and Ojibwi/Chippawa Tribes (Part 2 of 2)

This post is just a brief review of the Cree and Ojibwi Indian tribes. A little bit about their history, culture, and Hurit’s heritage. I wanted to make this a separate post due to the amount of information with which I had to work. I invite correct if I have made any mistakes. This is the second of two posts.


Love one another and help one another 

Cree Proverb

“Toward calm and shady places I am walking on the Earth.”

Ojibwi Song

The heavens belong to the Lord, but he has given the earth to all humanity.

Psalm 115:16 NLT


Chief Poundmaker of the Plains Cree

Hurit, this is the second part of your post. Let me start by saying, you are precious, golden and unique. But you already know that as well.  I understand your background is in the Cree and Obijwi tribes. Your background in the Native American culture is rich and amazing. I spent time reading and researching on your tribes and I found it deeply fascinating. I took Montana History in college when I lived there and was amazed as to how much Native American history exists. Having said that I am stunned and disappointed that I wasn’t made more aware about Native American culture. This is my attempt to make up for that deeply. And Hurit if I make a mistake I welcome correction! 🙂

The Cree are one of the largest groups of First Nations in North America. They are an Algonquin speaking people and share a reservation in Montana today with the Obijwi  or Chippewa. (I have more to say this in the Ojibwi section.)  But the Cree have a long, and deep history in Canada. The Cree were hunter-gathers and the basic unit or organization for the Cree people were the lodge. This consisted of families who were separate, but married and related. They lived together in the same wigwam, or domed tent or tipi. A band which is a group of lodges moved and hunted together. Bands were created, and dissolved with relative ease. Bands got together to hunt and socialize as they were often tied together by marriage. Decisions to go to war or accept peace came through the band, as its my understanding. When a band went to war they would nominate a “war chief” A good example of how this band system worked occurred in the 1885 North-West Rebellion. This rebellion occurred in Saskatchewan District against the government of Canada. Correct me if I am wrong, but it appears as if the First Nations Cree were an associate in the uprising. The rebellion happened by the Metis people who believed the Canadian government failed to protect their rights. The Metis are the mixed race of First Nation women and western European men. The rebellion failed and ended at the Siege of Batoche, its leader Louis Riel eventually hanged. The Indian allies scattered after Batoche. One interesting side note for Canadian history that grew out of this rebellion is that the railroad played a key role in transporting Canadian military. Because of that the Canadian Parliament authorized the funds to complete the first transcontinental railroad which was done by Canadian Pacific. In this rebellion peacemaking efforts were led by famed Canadian chief Big Bear who attempted to stop the Frog Lake Massacre. The well known warrior who led the fighting was Wandering Spirit. If you want to read more about the North West Rebellion you can read here and here.

Cree speaking bands worked together and with their neighbors against outside enemies. Cree who moved onto the Great Plains adopted bison hunting and became known as the Plains Cree. They were allied with the Assiniboine and Saulteaux in what became known as the ” Iron Confederacy” The “Iron Confederacy” was a political and military alliance of plains Indians in western Canada and the northern United States.  The leader of the Plains Cree at one point was the well known chief Poundmaker.  The “Iron Confederacy” became a major force in the North American fur trade from the 1730’s to 1870’s. The Confederacy operated as the middle man in controlling the flow of European goods to other native nations. They also controlled the flow of furs to the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Northwest Bay Company. I think that gives a basic briefing on one part of your heritage Hurit. There is so much to state and I could turn this into an essay about Native American history. Trust me…the grad history student in me is excited to read about all this heritage. This is a very rich, and deep history and I am not even close to doing it justice. Having spent a chunk of time exploring the Cree let me spend some time writing about the Ojibwe.

When I lived in Wisconsin I heard about the Chippewa tribe and was surprised to realize that it is the Ojibwe when researching all this information. The Ojibwe is a major component of the Anishinaabe speaking peoples. The Ojibwe are historically known for their crafting of birch bark canoes, and their sacred birch bark scrolls. They have several scrolls in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as I learned. They were also known for cultivation of wild rice, and the use of copper arrow points. In 1745 the Ojibwe used guns from the British to defeat the Dakota in the Lake Superior area. It is crucial to note that the Ojibwe Nation was the first to set the agenda with both European-Canadian leaders by signing detailed treaties before they allowed many European settlers onto their western areas. Their Midweiwin society is well known and respected as the keeper of detailed and complex scrolls of events, history, songs, maps, memories, stories, geometry, and mathematics. The first recorded historical mention of the Ojibwe occurs in a report by Jesuit missionary priests to their superiors in France in 1640. The Ojibwe used their access to European goods to begin to dominate their historical enemies who were the Lakota, Fox, and the Sioux. At the end of the 18th century the Ojibwe controlled nearly all of present-day Michigan, and northern Wisconsin. In Wisconsin they allied with the Sauk for protection. They also controlled Minnesota and the entire north shores of Lakes Huron and Superior on the Canadian side. They also extended westward to the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota. Unfortunately the Ojibwe allied with the losing sides in the French and Indian War and then the War of 1812. In the French and Indian war they sided with the French against the British. And after adjusting to British colonial rule they sided with the British against the Americans in the War of 1812. The Ojibwe were concerned with encroaching American settlers on their territory.  Sadly what happened occurred with other Native Americans. There were many cultural differences in the concept of land. The Ojibwe viewed land as something that was to be shared, where as the Canadians and Americans viewed land as a commodity, something that was owned.  After the War of 1812 the United States government tried to forcibly remove the Ojibwe to Minnesota.  During this time you had the Sandy Lake Tragedy.  I could go on as there is much to say but I think I demonstrated some basic knowledge of the Ojibwe tribe. If you want to read more I found this,  this ,  and this while researching this issue. It also appears as if the University of Minnesota has done work in documenting the Ojibwe tribe. While you have a rich culture its also hard to process what happened as there was a lot of injustice too Hurit. I struggled to come to terms with it in college history, and I struggled today with re-reading the history. But I write all this and encourage you to say the following. You should be proud of your heritage, and lineage. You are part of a deep, and rich culture. Your history is something I would embrace and encourage you to explore. As a former history grad student reading a taste of what I have done to put this together tells me I should read more about the history of the Native American peoples. I hope you find this encouraging. I included a couple of documentaries from Youtube below. I also included a song from well known Cree singer Buffy Sainte-Marie. Stand strong Hurit! 🙂

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