One of the major Algonquian-speaking Indian peoples of Canada, living mainly in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The name is a truncated form of the name Kristineaux, the French traders' version of the self-name of the James Bay band. The Cree formerly occupied an immense area from western Quebec to eastern Alberta. They acquired firearms and engaged in the fur trade with Europeans beginning in the 17th century. There were two major divisions: the Woodland Cree and the Plains Cree, both of which were typical representatives of American Subarctic peoples. Social organization in both groups was based on local bands. Among the Woodland Cree, rituals and taboos relating to the spirits of game animals were pervasive, as was fear of witchcraft. Among the more militant Plains Cree, rites intended to foster success in warfare and the bison hunt were common. Cree descendants numbered some 90,000 in the early 21st century.
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