The Cree people live nation-wide and are the largest aboriginal group in Canada, with more than 200,000 registered members and a dozen of self-governed nations. The word “Cree” comes from the French name for the tribe, “Kristenaux”. The word Algonquin, referring to the progenitors of the Cree, means “first people”. Modern anthropological studies have determined that the Plains Cree made their way west in the early 18th century, displacing earlier tribes in the region.
Métis individuals who were married prior to July 15, 1870, and living within the “Postage Stamp” province of Manitoba during the 1871 census, were given lands distributed according to the parish. An individual who applied was supposed to receive 160 acres (one quarter-section) of land, but the number of applicants exceeded the government’s expectations and an offer of $1 per acre was also put forth. $160 was a lot of money at the time and many took the option.
The Northwest Rebellion of 1885 was waged by rebel metis forces against the Canadian government due to disputes concerning aboriginal rights and lands. The rebel metis, including Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, were heavily outgunned and outnumbered. In the aftermath of their loss, any metis that did not surrender, or was captured by the government, were scattered to the winds. They would not have a land-base to call home for over 50 years.
Elizabeth Settlement, as well as 9 other settlements, were established in 1939 when the province of Alberta passed the Metis Betterment Act which set aside a land-base for the Metis. To date, such settlements exist only in Alberta. The other existing settlements are: Buffalo Lake, East Prairie, Fishing Lake, Gift Lake, Kikino, Paddle Prairie, and Peavine. Two settlements were originally supposed to be established in the areas of Marlboro, AB and Wolf Lake, AB, but never achieved permanent status.