Collection Description

Culture Name

Western Woods Cree

Culture Description

The Western Woods Cree lived aboriginally in the boreal forests from Hudson and James Bays westward to the Peace River in Canada. In the early twenty-first century they are found primarily in the region between Lake Superior and Hudson Bay. Traditionally, the Western Woods Cree were nomadic hunters, depending largely on big game. Their settlements varied seasonally--large regional bands gathered together in the summer, but the bands dispersed into small, widely distributed camps the rest of the year. Settlements became increasingly sedentary at the end of the 19th century; in the mid-twentieth century government programs promoted nucleated villages.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


North America --Arctic and Subarctic



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The NG08 Western Woods Cree consists of 8 English language documents. Mason (1967, no. 1) provides a comprehensive overview of W.W. Cree ethnography supplemented by Smith (1981, no. 2) which presents a brief summary of some of the major features of their ethnography dating from the seventeenth to the late twentieth centuries, and with an emphasis on the western Swampy and Rocky Cree populations. Two of the studies in this collection by Smith (1976, 1987, nos. 4 and 8) discuss and analyze the ethnological “myth” dealing with the movement of the W.W. Cree to the southwest areas at the time of the initial Euro-American contact. According to this belief French and English guns gave the Cree technological superiority over their neighbors to the west and southwest and permitted them to move easily into the conquered lands. Evidence for pottery making at the time of early Euro-American contacts is discussed in Meyer (1987, no. 5). Fisher (1969, no. 6) describes the socio-cultural evolution of the hunting band discussed in terms of social, ecological, and historical variables within the society. Hallowell (1935, no. 7) is a study of cross-cousin marriage in relationship to the kinship system.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

John Beierle

Kitci manitu ( misi-manito) – the Great Spirit - use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)"

Manitu-wuk ( mahitowak) – nature spirits - use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)"

Matci manitu ( macimanito.w) – an evil spirit - use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)"

Pahkuk – spirits of the dead - use "ESCHATOLOGY (775)"

Trading captains- use "STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554)"and "FOREIGN TRADE (439)"

Witiko – cannibalistic spirits which fly through the night breathing fire - use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)" and "CANNIBALISM (266)"

Wi-htiko.w – the cannibal giant – use “SPIRITS AND GODS (776)” and “CANNIBALISM (266)”

This culture summary is from the article “Cree, Western Woods” by James G.E. Smith in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, vol. 1, 1991. Timothy O’Leary and David Levinson, eds. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The indexing notes and synopsis were written by John Beierle in July 2006.

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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