The Longhouses

Published on July 12, 2012 by Amy

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The Longhouses
The Longhouses

Longhouses were built by the Eastern Woodland Indians.

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Many families lived together in one longhouse. Each was assigned their own section. Fireplaces and fire pits ran down the middle of the longhouse for heat and for people to share as a place to cook food.

Longhouses were not measured by feet. They were measured by camp fires. A longhouse might be referred to as 10 fires long, or perhaps as 12 fires long.

It doesn’t sound like much when you count by fires. But longhouses were really long – they could be over 200 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 25 feet high. That’s huge! To get an idea of how big they were, measure the distance from floor to ceiling in your own house.

You can imagine something that big took a lot of work to build. And it did. It took work and teamwork.

First, they made a frame out of long poles of wood. Then, they tied young trees to the frame, trees young enough to bend and shape.

Once they had the shape of the longhouse in place, they covered the house with bark. They added a few smoke holes and two doors – one at each end.

The Iroquois rigged a flap on the smoke holes. When it snowed or rained, the holes could be opened and closed as needed.

Later, the people might go back and add to the longhouse, making it even longer as needed. Longhouses, once built, lasted about twenty years.

Many longhouses had a huge pole fence built around them for additional protection. Stairs were built on the inside of the fence, so that archers could easily climb up and defend against attack. The poles ended in long sharp points to discourage anyone from climbing over.

Longhouses were so important to the Iroquois way of life that, even today, the Iroquois call themselves “the People of the Longhouse”, although today, the Iroquois people live in modern homes.

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Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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