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Longhouses, Wigwams and "Wattle and Daub"


When you hear the words "Native American," what do you think? Over the past few weeks, we've been visiting several tribes, going to powwows, and getting to know some of the Native American population. We're learning how different the tribes can be. In this dispatch, we're going to point out some of those differences in explaining some types of traditional homes as well as traditional dress of some Native American tribes.

Not unlike the differences in the homes we see in this country today, traditional homes of the Native American people came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some tribes, like the Iroquois in what is now New York state, built longhouses which were over 200 feet long using elm tree bark to cover a framework made from branches. Up near what is now Connecticut, members of the Pequot tribe lived in traditional wigwams, which are huts built using an arched framework of poles and then covered with bark, woven mats or animal hides.

In what is now North and South Carolina, Cherokee homes were usually what is called "wattle and daub," a circular building made from branches and then covered with mud. Later on, the Cherokee generally lived in log cabins built with one door and a smokehole opening in a bark-covered roof. The Miwok tribe, in what is now Northern California, lived in huts made of tule bark.

So, as you may see, the differences in the types of homes that Native Americans lived in were influenced by the resources available to the tribe, and the environment in which they lived. Similarly, when we look at some of the daily dress of Native American tribes long ago, we can see these types of influence.

For example, the Winnebago tribe of Wisconsin wore fringed buckskin, often decorated with beautiful designs created from porcupine quills, feathers, and beads. People of the Chumash tribe, on the other hand, didn't wear much clothing at all! They lived in the Santa Barbara area of Southern California where the climate is nice and warm. Women usually wore a two-piece skirt made of deerskin or plant fibers. Boys and men wore nothing at all! If they needed, they wore belts or small nets tied around their waist to carry tools. In colder weather, the Chumash wore capes of animal skins and the tribal chief wore a waist-length bearskin cape.

So as you can see, the differences from tribe to tribe were many. We encourage you to learn about the history of some of the Native American tribes in your area!

The Team


Links to Other Dispatches

Daphne - Living with those pesky, loud tourists at the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico
Stephanie - So what exactly goes on at a powwow anyway?