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Cree Place Names

The dense network of Cree place names in Iiyiyuuschii illustrates the spiritual, historical and practical nature of the Crees' relationship with the land, water and living resources in their homeland. Not surprisingly then, practices associated with the naming of places are as ancient as Cree culture itself. And they continue to play a dynamic role today for, in response to changes in patterns of land use, new names are created and older ones lost.

The Cree Place Names section of the website was created to provide an overview of the thousands of Cree place names in Iiyiyuuschii and, where possible, additional information - in the form of stories, legends and land-use information - about the significance of particular places.

The collection of Cree place names began in the early 1990s as a means of building a database of Cree historical and cultural knowledge about places.

Incentive to develop a program for the collection of Cree place names was prompted by forestry operations that were increasingly devastating Cree hunting lands in the southern portion of Iiyiyuuschii. The initial project, however, was conducted in Whapmagoostui, the most northern Cree community, in response to Hydro-Quebec's plans to build the Great Whale River hydroelectric project. Projects followed in Waswanipi and Mistissini.

The more than 7,000 places identified in the course of the three projects comprise the core of the Cree Place Names Interactive Resource. We open with the Mistissini, Waswanipi and a sample of the Whapmagoostui place names. More will be added as they are digitized.

It is hoped an awareness of these places will inspire an appreciation of the extent to which the people used and loved the land, and more narrowly, their perceptions of particular places within it.