Cree First Nations Saddle

Pad Saddle from the Day Star Reserve

This Yorkshire World Collections object was one of 100 chosen by young people aged 16-24, as part of the London Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.

This Cree First Nations Pad Saddle from central Canada, is designed to be comfortable to both the horse and its rider. The central hide panels would have been stuffed with grass, or buffalo, dog or horsehair before being sewn up. Pad saddles of this type were typically menís saddles. The saddle is elaborately decorated with rich floral beadwork and red tassels, and would probably have been made for special ceremonies and worn by someone of high rank. It clearly showed the pride the owner took in his horse. The saddle was constructed between 1900 and 1920, and comes from the Day Star Reserve in Saskatchewan province.

Facts about the Cree band
  • The Cree band is one of the largest First Nations groups in North America. There are 200,000 Cree people today living in communities throughout Canada and in parts of the northern United States.
  • Each Cree community lives on its own reserve (or reservation, as it's called in the United States.) Reserves are lands that belong to the Crees and are under their control. Cree bands are called First Nations in Canada and Tribes in the United States. Each Cree band is politically independent and has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. Some Cree bands have also formed coalitions to address common problems.
  • The political leader of a Cree band is called a chief. In the past, Cree chiefs were men who had become famous in war. Today chiefs can be men or women, and are elected in most Cree bands, just like mayors and governors.
  • Most Cree people speak English or French, but some of them also speak their native Cree language. There is an example of a girl singing in the Cree language in the links section below.
  • In the past Cree men were hunters and fishermen, and they sometimes went to war to protect their families. Cree women took care of the children, built their family's house, and gathered plants to eat and herbs to use for medicine. Both men and women took part in storytelling, artwork, music, and religious festivals.
  • There were two types of dwellings used by the Crees. In the woodlands, Cree people lived in buildings called wigwams. On the plain, Cree people pitched camp with large buffalo-hide tents called tipis (or teepees). The Plains Cree were nomadic people, and tipis were easier to move from place to place than wigwams. Today, tipis and wigwams are only used for ceremonial purposes, not for shelter and most Crees live in modern houses or flats.
  • Cree women wore long dresses with removable sleeves. Cree men wore breechcloths and leggings. The Crees also wore moccasins on their feet and cloaks or ponchos in bad weather. Later, Cree people adapted European clothing to their own style using beadwork and embroidery.


Coalition - Partnership or union
Breechcloth - A long rectangular piece of tanned deerskin, cloth, or animal fur, worn between the legs and tucked over a belt, so that the flaps fall down in front and back.
Moccassins - Shoe, made of deerskin or other soft leather, consisting of a sole and sides made of one piece of leather, stitched together at the top.
Nomadic - Travelling or wandering

Discussion Ideas:

  • What do you think life was like for a Cree child 150 years ago?
  • How do you think it has changed today? Watch the video link below to find out more.
  • What other groups of people across the world have had to fight to keep their land and identity?
  • Horses were an important part of Cree band life. What were horses used for in British society 150, 100, 50 years ago, and what are they used for today?
  • 50 years ago 'Cowboys and Indians' was a popular children's game. First Nations were 'typecast' at the time, particularly in western films. Talk about stereotypes and type casting, and think of examples of that still happening today. How much does the media influence our views? 
  • 'Cowboys and Indians' was a fight or battle game. What games do children play today? Are they different? How are they different?

Activity Ideas:

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