Longhouses

Native American longhouses were large homes designed for multiple families. They were especially popular among the tribes who lived in the northern United States, although many tribes used longhouses, partly as protection against the elements, and partly as a way to bind several families together into a tribe.

There are several kinds of sources for our current knowledge about longhouses. Europeans who came to the US wrote about Native American longhouses in their diaries and letters. They often described at length how these longhouses looked and how they were built. The Native American oral tradition also gives much information about longhouses. Many longhouses were excavated and are somewhat intact. From the remains we can see how the entire structure appeared. Although there were no nails used in the construction of longhouses, it is amazing that simple bark and leather straps should keep a large structure intact for centuries.



Native American longhouses were curved and the top and constructed from wooden poles fastened with leather straps instead of nails. Bark or hides were usually placed across the top to form a cover. Tribes performed all of their daily activities, such as cooking and making tools, inside their longhouses. Holes were usually made at the top of the longhouses so smoke could escape at the top. Doors were simply flaps at the front and sides of the longhouses and in spite of the basic structure, these hides and poles were designed to withstand all kinds of adverse conditions and harsh weather.

Several families lived in longhouses, which were divided to into different spaces for each family. According to modern standards, longhouses provided little privacy, but Native Americans were accustomed to pursuing all of their activities together. "A man's home is his castle" was not the motto of Native Americans who lived in longhouses. Sharing and togetherness was required for such habitations.





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