Friday, 21 August 2015

The Plains Cree: Trade, Diplomacy and War, 1790 to 1870 by John S. Milloy

The Plains Cree: Trade, Diplomacy and War, 1790 to 1870 by John S. Milloy

The story of the Plains Cree begins in the late seventeenth century with the establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company bayside trading posts on the borders of Cree territory. As middlemen in the trade, the Cree moved through the northern woodlands into western parkland and plains around the Saskatchewan River and Red River. By 1790, the Cree were well established as a nation of the plains. But far from being the warring raiders of myth, the Plains Cree and other native plains peoples developed a set of well-structured, intertribal relationships that ensured their security and enabled them to acquire some of the goods necessary to meet the challenges of existence.

John Milloy presents the first economic, military and diplomatic history of the Plains Cree from contact with the Europeans in the 1670s to the disappearance of the buffalo from Cree lands by the 1870s, focusing on reconstructing the military and trade chronology between 1790 and 1870. He describes three distinct eras, each characterized by a paramount motive for war – the wars of migration and territory which set the western economic and military stage upon  which the emerging Plains Cree nation would play out its existence, the horse wars during the "golden years" of plains Indian life, and the buffalo wars which mark the trail to the reserves.

Intimately related to each era was a particular trade pattern and a military system that linked the Cree with other plains tribes and with non-natives. By tracing these themes, Milloy charts the ability of the Cree to serve their economic alliances or undertaking military or diplomatic offensives.

With his new "historical topography" of western Canada, Milloy has established important new perspectives on the nineteenth-century prairie West.

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