Iroquois Longhouse

The Iroquois longhouse were built to house 20 or more families.

The Iroquois Indian tribe was actually a confederacy of six Native American nations.  It consisted of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora.  They were a very powerful and prominent Indian tribe.

They were called Iroquois by their neighbors (the Algonkian speaking people) and European settlers.  They actually called themselves Haudenosaunee, which meant “people who live in the extended longhouses.”  The Iroquois lived in a type of dwelling known as a longhouse.  A longhouse is a long, narrow single room that was built by Native American Indians, but also by those inhabiting Asia and Europe.  Many cultures regard the longhouse as the earliest form of a permanent structure.  While the longhouse may have reached lengths of 100 meters, they were generally never wider than 5 to 7 meters. 

The Iroquois longhouses had doors on both ends.  They were usually covered with animal skins during the winters to keep some of the cold air out.  Each Iroquois longhouse was designed so as many as twenty families or more could live in it.  A family would occupy a booth on either side of the hallway.  The booth had a wooden platform for sleeping.

To build the Iroquois longhouse, the Indians set poles in the ground.  Horizontal poles supported those poles.  By bending a series of poles, the Iroquois were able to create an arc shaped roof for the longhouse.  The frame of the Iroquois longhouse was made by sewing bark and using that as shingles.  

Iroquois longhouses had no windows, just the doors at each end.  Missionaries wrote about how dark the inside of the houses were.  The only other openings in the house were at the ceiling.  There were holes there to allow the fire pit smoke to escape, but those holes provided very little natural light.  The fire pits were located in the hallway and shared by the families.

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