Social Organization. Traditional Cree hunting society was egalitarian, with status distinctions based on relative age or abilities, as in hunting success, and on one's sex. In summer, regional bands were normally the largest social aggregation and gathered at lake shores. At the end of the summer, Regional bands dispersed into constituent hunting groups to exploit the seasonally dispersed game. The pattern was only slightly altered when the Cree began to hunt and trap furbearing animals, although the orientation was to a trading post center which later included a Christian mission. Intermarriage with Whites created no problems until treaties were made, after which the patrilineal provisions of the Indian Act of 1869 separated status Indians from nonstatus or Metis.
Political Organization. Leadership was based on age, with the eldest active male the head of the extended family, and informal councils of elders reaching consensus on behalf of the members of regional bands. During the treaty-making period, chiefs and councilors had to be elected. At first these were respected elders, but with the increase in importance of government authorities, younger and more articulate men skilled in English became the formal chiefs, principally acting as foreign ministers or ambassadors. The elders remained extremely important in decision making, however.
Social Control and Conflict. The socialization of children and informal pressures were usually enough to prevent serious problems. Face-to-face conflict was always avoided, and interpersonal tensions were resolved by families leaving one local band and realigning with another. Belief in conjuring and witchcraft was also important, but there is little information available about specific practices. In the contemporary period, order is maintained by special constables or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.