Muskekowuck Athinuwick: Original People of the Great Swampy Land


289 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88755-651-5
DDC 971.3'1004973




Reviewed by John Steckley

John Steckley teaches in the Human Studies Program at Humber College in
Toronto. He is the author of Beyond Their Years: Five Native Women’s


This book is about the Swampy Cree, the Cree people who live in the
lowlands west of Hudson Bay and James Bay. The author works as a
consultant in the field of Aboriginal and treaty rights. The book is
based on his archival and library work.

Lytwyn sets out to “challenge many stereotypical views of the Lowland
Cree in the previous literature, and to provide a more complex
historical picture of their involvement in the fur trade.” The main
myth he successfully debunks is that of “an uninhabited Hudson Bay
lowlands” prior to the establishment of fur trade posts in the area.
He achieves this by supporting oral traditions with archeological
evidence, primarily provided by Jean Luc Pilon and his work on the
Severn River lowlands. He points out that contrary to the contentions of
earlier writers, waterfowl were significant as a resource for the Cree
prior to Cree acquisition of European firearms.

Lytwyn’s arguments are both strong and weak in his discussion of the
role of the Lowland Cree in the peace made between the Europeans and the
Chipewyans in the 18th century. While he is right to criticize the
historic downplaying of their role in the peacemaking process, he also
appears to be a little too Cree-centric, insufficiently acknowledging
the role of the Chipewyan woman Thanadelthur. However, his most
important weakness lies in not making sufficient use of the more
accurate and insight-producing works of Cree linguists and speakers, and
in relying too heavily on the use of Cree terms in the writings of early
traders and on the archaic terms used by historian A. Morton in naming
Cree groups. Finally, he fails to connect references to “Whiticco”
(Witiko) to the index entry on “Windigo.”

Still, this book is well worth reading, as it fills in gaps in the
scholarly writing on the Cree.


Lytwyn, Victor P., “Muskekowuck Athinuwick: Original People of the Great Swampy Land,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,