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Living Spaces of Native Americans

There is a very wealthy pool of knowledge to gain when studying the history, culture, beliefs, and traditions of the Native Americans. With the popularity of films like Peter Pan, Pocahontas, and The Last of the Mohicans, the public mind had a glimpse of their culture through the interpretation of media producers. However, there is much more to know and learn from the indigenous people of North America. More than their physical appearance and traditional attire, there are a lot of interesting facts to be gained from their housing and living spaces.

Native Americans home
Native Americans home

Confusion about Native American Homes

Historical records made by the first explorers and settlers of Northern America can have misnomers concerning their cultural knowledge of Native Americans. This includes the names of the houses of the people as they identified them as separate types of buildings. Some made the error of generalizing that the dwellings of one tribe and their respective names are the same as those of another tribe’s. Other historians also hypothesized all Native American dwellings, simply as houses and tents when in fact each kind has their own distinctions.

For instance, Tepees are one of the most common and recognizable types of Native American living spaces. They are pointed and tent-like houses. They should not be confused with the Wigwam, another common type of Native American dwelling which is smaller and has rounder, cone-like shapes. Another distinctive trait of the wigwam is its arched roof made up of a wooden frame and covered with woven wood mats.

The Style of Native American Dwellings

Similar to other cultures and societies all across the globe, the design, structure, and materials of Native American living spaces are influenced by the climate and surroundings of a particular tribe. Other houses may have additional accessories or embellishments that is reflective of the beliefs and traditions of the people.

Native American Dwellings
Native American Dwellings

For example, the well-known Tepee is the main form of dwelling for Native Americans who dwell on the plains. The tepees were made from wooden frames with covers made from buffalo skin or in some cases, reed mats, sheets of bark or canvas. This made the tepee very portable and easy to assemble or disassemble for the “Plains Indians” as the Spanish explorers and colonizers resulted in their becoming a nomadic people. Unlike the Tepee, the Wigwam is not made to be portable dwellings, so they are made by Native American tribes who are very much settled in their ancestral lands. Some varieties of the wigwam have smoke holes for a central fireplace and waterproofing systems in case of rainy weather.

Names of Native American Living Spaces

Here is some important vocabulary when talking or discussing Native Americans and their living spaces. There are several other types of Native American dwellings other than the popular Wigwam and Tepee. One of these is the Chickees, houses built on platforms or stilts, of the Seminole tribe in Florida. Another kind is made by the Basin tribes – the Goshute, Washoe, and Paiute, which they call Wickiups or houses that are shaped like domes. Other tribes have their own structure for their houses. An example would be the longhouses made of bark by the Iroquois tribes. Tribes from the southwest of the country, such as the Pueblos, Hopis, and Zunis, made houses out of adobe.

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