Cree Narrative. 2nd ed.


285 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-2361-8
DDC 970'.004'973




Reviewed by J.R. Miller

J.R. (Jim) Miller is Canada Research Chair of History at the University
of Saskatchewan. He is the author of Skyscrapers Hide in the Heavens: A
History of Indian-White Relations in Canada and coeditor of the Canadian
Historical Review.


The reissue of this classic of ethnographic anthropology is an event to
be welcomed by all students of Aboriginal culture in Canada. In the
1960s, anthropologist Richard Preston spent a number of summers in the
James Bay Cree community of Waskaganish in search of data for his
doctoral dissertation. The result was Cree Narrative, a study that
captures a number of the characteristics of the James Bay Cree on the
eve of the impact of development—principally the James Bay
hydroelectric project—on them.

Preston based his study on the recollections of John Blackned,
supplemented by stories from other informants in the community. He
focused the resulting analysis on conjuring; narration as the expression
of attitudes, songs, and stories concerning the relations between humans
and animals; and the ever-present challenge of deprivation in a
hunting–gathering economy. Throughout his study, Preston treated his
informants and what they told him with sensitivity and insight, using
their accounts to test and enrich anthropologists’ understanding of
key elements of Cree culture. For this second edition, he added several
chapters that introduce the town and John Blackned, and recount
Blackned’s recall of a 12-month period of his youth that is as
astonishing for its detail as for the richness of its information about
Cree ways.

Both Richard Preston and McGill-Queen’s University Press are to be
congratulated on this reissue of Cree Narrative.


Preston, Richard J., “Cree Narrative. 2nd ed.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,