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Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones

Crees

In Québec, the Cree population numbers more than 14,500. The Crees are spread out over nine villages along the shores of James Bay and Hudson Bay as well as inland. The Cree nation belongs to the greater Algonquin linguistic and cultural family. The entire population speaks Cree, while English is the second language of the majority.

Originating from the Plains of Western Canada, the Crees traditionally lived in small nomadic groups, subsisting off hunting and fishing. In Québec, they resided in the James Bay sector. Beginning in 1670, the fur trade would be a very important economic activity for them.

In the 20th century, the growing presence of the Federal Government in James Bay, the introduction of compulsory school attendance, the construction of permanent homes and the decline of the fur trade upset the way of life of the Crees. In the 1970s, the Crees set up a structured political organization, the Québec Grand Council of the Crees, within the context of the James Bay hydroelectric and development projects.

In 1975, they signed, along with the Inuit and the governments of Québec and Canada, the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA), which assures them the ownership or the exclusive use of territories covering 5,544 km2, exclusive hunting, fishing and trapping rights on a surface area of 69,995 km2, as well as the obtention of an indemnity for assuming responsibility for and funding various obligations of the governments mainly in the health and social services, education and income security fields. The JBNQA has transformed the universe of the Crees by resulting in the creation of several Cree administrative organizations and institutions as well as many businesses that have contributed to the economic well-being of the Cree population.

However, the implementation of the JBNQA gave rise to numerous problems, which the gouvernement du Québec and the Cree nation agreed to settle by signing the Paix des braves in 2002, thereby establishing the foundations for a new relationship.

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Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones
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Last update: May 19, 2009
Online as of: November 11, 2004