Monday, August 1, 2011

Native American Indian Houses, Illustrated

Native American Indian Houses

The houses of Indians vary greatly. In some tribes they are large and intended for several families; in others they are small, and occupied by few persons. Some are admirably constructed, like the great Pueblo houses of the southwest, made of stone and adobe mud; others are frail structures of brush and thatch. The material naturally varies with the district consisted of a light framework of poles tied together, which was covered with long strips of bark tied or pegged on. There was no window, but there was a doorway at each end. Blankets or skins hung at these served as doors. Through the house from doorway to doorway ran a central passage: the space on either side of this was divided by partitions of skins into a series of stalls, each of which was occupied by a family. In the central passage was a series of fireplaces or hearths, each one of which served for four families. A large house of this kind might have five or even more hearths, and would be occupied by twenty or more families. Indian houses contained but little furniture. Some blankets or skins served as a bed; there were no tables or chairs; there were no stoves, as all cooking was done over the open fire or the fireplace.The eastern Algonkins built houses like those of the Iroquois, but usually much smaller. They, too, were made of a light framework of poles over which were hung sheets of rush matting which could be easily removed and rolled up, for future use in case of removal. There are pictures in old books of some Algonkin villages.
  These villages were often inclosed by a line of palisades to keep off enemies. Sometimes the gardens and cornfields were inside this palisading, sometimes outside. The houses in these pictures usually have straight, vertical sides and queer rounded roofs. Sometimes they were arranged along streets, but at others they were placed in a ring around a central open space, where games and celebrations took place.     

Sac and Fox Indian House of Bark

     Many tribes have two kinds of houses, one for summer, the other for winter. The Sacs and Foxes of Iowa, in summer, live in large, rectangular, barn-like structures. These measure perhaps twenty feet by thirty. They are bark-covered and have two doorways and a central passage, somewhat like the Iroquois house. But they are not divided by partitions into sections. On each side, a platform about three feet high and six feet wide runs the full length of the house. Upon this the people sleep, simply spreading out their blankets when they wish to lie down. Each person has his proper place upon the platform, and no one thinks of trespassing upon another. At the back of the platform, against the wall, are boxes, baskets, and bundles containing the property of the different members of the household. As these platforms

 are rather high, there are little ladders fastened into the earth floor, the tops of which rest against the edge of the platform. These ladders are simply logs of wood, with notches cut into them for footholds.Winter House of Sacs and Foxes, Iowa. (From Photograph.)

The winter house is very different. In the summer house there is plenty of room and air; in the winter house space is precious. The framework of the winter lodge is made of light poles tied together with narrow strips of bark. It is an oblong, dome-shaped affair about twenty feet long and ten wide. Some are nearly circular and about fifteen feet across. They are hardly six feet high. Over this framework are fastened sheets of matting made of cattail rushes. This matting is very light and thin, but a layer or two of it keeps out
]a great deal of cold. There is but one doorway, usually at the middle of the side. There are no platforms, but beds are made, close to the ground, out of poles and branches. At the center is a fireplace, over which hangs the pot in which food is boiled.

Mandan Indian Houses

The Mandans used to build good houses almost circular in form. The floor was sunk a foot or more below the surface of the ground. The framework was made of large and strong timbers. The outside walls sloped inward and upward from the ground to a height of about five feet. They were composed of boards. The roof sloped from the top of the wall up to a central point; it was made of poles, covered with willow matting and then with grass. The whole house, wall and roof, was then covered over with a layer of earth a foot and a half thick. When such a house contained a fire sending out smoke, it must have looked like a smooth, regularly sloping little volcano.