Hundreds of years ago, America’s first people lived in a variety of dwellings. Their homes depend geographically from where they live. Each Indian tribe needed a housing that would fit their lifestyle and climate. Because North America is such a big continent, each tribe had to adapt to different weather and environments, ranging from the Arizona deserts of 120 degree Fahrenheit, to the Alaskan tundra of -50 degree Fahrenheit. Naturally, the Native Americans developed different types of dwellings to survive in these different environments. Some tribes were nomadic – moving frequently from place to place – so they needed houses that were portable and easy to build. In this research you will learn about the different type of houses the Native Americans lived in. Wigwams
Wigwams are domed shaped shelters that were covered with animal skins or woven mats. They were a favorite of the Algonquin tribes of the northeast. Some wigwams were conical shaped like a tipi, while others were rounded in shape. Wigwams are sometimes known as birch bark houses. The house is very small, usually 8 to 10 feet tall. To build a wigwam, the builder’s first job is to trace and outline on the ground and dig holes along it. The poles to make the frame would be set into the holes. The poles were the stripped trunks of flexible young trees. Each pole had a partner directly across from it, and the pairs were curved to meet at the top in the shape of an arch. Each pair is then tied together with basswood strips. Once the frame was secure, the cover was put on. With the frames in place, you then have to attach the coverings. The covering was made up of layers to keep them warm during the winter. The inner layer usually consists of sheets of birch or elm bark, animal hides, or woven leaves, which the women stitched together with strips of basswood. The roof is made of overlapping sheets of bark, which were lightweight and water resistant. All wigwams had a central fire pit and a smoke hole to keep the inside of the wigwam smoke free. The hole was covered by a flap of bark that could be opened and closed with a long pole. Wigwams are extremely portable. All you have to do is remove the covering of the wigwam and leave the frame in place. They would carry the bark or hide with them from campsite to campsite. These materials were lightweight and easy to carry from one place to another. Longhouses
Many Native Americans lived in homes that were long enough to house several families. Tribes in the northeast dwelled in a longhouse. A longhouse is a large rectangular building with a framework of wooden poles covered with bark. They were built in clearings in the woods and on the banks of rivers and streams. Many were built on hilltops for extra protection. Villages were surrounded by protective walls called palisades. Since longhouses caught on fire so easily, thee palisades were built in random patterns to prevent the fires from spreading. The average longhouse was about 60 feet long by 18 feet wide. However, it could be 200 feet blog, 20 feet wide and 20 feet high. Each house had an entire clan of up to 60 people. The inside of a longhouse is divided into compartments for different families. Each family would have their compartment. Raised platforms created a second story which was used for sleeping space. Mat and wood screens divided the long house into separate rooms. Several smoke holes in the roof let out smoke from several fire pits. Before constructing a longhouse, the men would go into the woods to peel bark off young trees and find long, thin tree trunks. They laid the bark flat to dry and cut it into large sheets. They used the trunks to make the poles. On the flat ground, they traced the outline of the house and dug holes as they went along. The poles were then set into the poles and that was the framework for the house. To make the frame stronger and more consistent,...