The first encounters with Europeans, dating back to the beginning of the 17th century, revolved around the fur trade, which lasted nearly 300 years. With the passing years, the Crees considerably changed their lifestyle. To meet the demands of the fur trade, they gradually set aside big game hunting and their nomadic way of life, and trapping became a major activity. The trading post sites became the location of today's Cree communities.
Though some Crees still make a living from trapping and other traditional activities such as hunting and fishing, modern life has considerably changed the behaviour of hunters and trappers. With longer distances to cover, they now travel by snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle, depending on the season. In fact, the significant transformation of the landscape first caused by mining and logging activities, and all the more , by the construction of huge hydro-electric facilities and roads since the beginning of the 1970s, has significantly affected day-to-day life and transportation for the Crees.
Since the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was signed in 1975, the Crees have moved into the 20th century at the speed of light. A proud people, they are working to revitalize their traditions and language, while providing community members with the benefits of modern life, especially in the areas of health, education, economics and housing. Provisions of the Agreement give the Crees exclusive or shared access, depending on the case, to territories they previously occupied alone, where they can practice traditional hunting, fishing and trapping activities. Cree culture is vibrant, rich and unique. The inhabitants of the 9 communities of the region invite you to discover it by sharing their way of life: authentic cuisine, distinctive crafts, fabulous tales and traditional activities in harmony and respect for nature.
The fabulous adventure of the first Europeans to come to America mingles with the history of the early occupants of this huge territory. Their exploration of the new continent was fuelled by the search for a new route to Asia and, in 1610, Sir Henry Hudson discovered the bay that bears his name. In 1631, Thomas James published the map of Hudson Bay showing once and for all that it was not the Northwest Passage, the fabled sea route to the Orient. However, people rapidly realized that the region was full of animals whose furs were among the most sought-after in the world. During that period, Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers, developed the fur trade in New France. They first managed to interest the English and, in May 1670, King Charles granted a royal charter to the Hudson's Bay Company, which is still in operation today!
Preferring exploration to trade, they left the company in 1674 and returned once more to France to create the North West Company, a direct competitor of the Hudson's Bay Company. The struggle for control of the fur trade continued until 1713, when the signature of the Treaty of Utrecht ended hostilities between the French and the English. The fur market gradually declined; only Natives now practise trapping. As for the last trappers, they became prospectors!