The Plains Cree

Trade, Diplomacy, and War, 1790 to 1870


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, focussing on military and trade relations between 1790 and 1870.

Milloy describes three distinct eras, each characterized by a paramount motive for war—the wars of migration and territory, the horse wars during the 'golden years' of Plains Indian life, and buffalo wars, which mark the trail to the reserves. Intimately linked to each era was a particular trade pattern and a military system that linked the Cree with other Plains tribes and non-Natives. By tracing these themes, Milloy charts the ability of the Cree to serve their economic interests by forging alliances or undertaking military or diplomatic offensives.


“[T]his intense and carefully researched study successfully avoids the conventional view of the plains warrior... an exciting narrative, full of battles, adventure and facts."

Globe and Mail

“During the 80-year period before they located on a Canadian reserve, the Plains Cree underwent an amazing cycle of technological and economic adjustment. Milloy’s relatively brief study outlines these developments in revealing fashion. Especially noteworthy are the details of the Cree as active entrepreneurial decision makers, always seeking to modify the world to suit Cree terms…the book’s scope sweeps across the plains, mountains, and rivers…realistically portraying the complex experiences of the plains peoples. This solid, scholarly contribution should be in both undergraduate and graduate collections as well as in larger public libraries.”

Choice Magazine

About the Author

John Milloy is professor in the departments of Native Studies and History, and Master of Peter Robinson College, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.