Pembina Plains Ojibwa  |  First Peoples  |  Ojibwa/Chippewa/Saulteaux

The First Peoples already in the Pembina region were the Cree and Assiniboine. Those distinct peoples were originally allied in the late 16th century in that area,following the collapse of the Great Cahokia Mississippian Empire that reached north into Minnesota, northeast up the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, and northwest up the Missouri River into Montana. They were known as the Nehiyaw Pwat Confederacy (meaning "Cree Assiniboine"). They were also called the Iron Alliance (referring to their control of the iron goods market from the Hudson’s Bay Company to tribes of the continental interior from the 1680s until the 1820s). They were deeply integrated through economics and politics, as well as closely intermarried across family, band, and cultural lines. Included among them initially were the Cheyenne, an early band of the Cree peoples who moved farther west as the Great Lakes emigration of Algonkian and Siouan peoples occurred. The name "Cheyenne" comes from a French rendering of the Dakota (Sioux) word "šah.yena" ("š" is pronounced "sh"). This is the regular diminutive of šah.ya, what the Dakota called the Cree. Applied by the Sioux, it means "little Cree." Much as the Assiniboine/Nakota (who split from their Dakota peoples) joined with the Cree, the Cheyenne split from the Cree and joined with the Dakota in their westward expansion. On all sides, extended family relationships continued. Many people of today’s Little Shell are intermarried within the Northern Cheyenne. The Cree and Cheyenne languages are mutually intelligible to this day.