If you’re like me, you love to “feather your nest” as the old saying goes. Most women and even many men love nesting, and playing around with my home’s décor is one of my favorite pastimes. So when I began research on the Seneca for The Return, Book 2 of my Northkill Amish Series, coauthored with Bob Hostetler, I was especially interested in discovering how Iroquois longhouses were built, and not only how the interior spaces were used, but also how they were decorated. After all, native peoples weren’t any different from European settlers in wanting their homes to offer a pleasing appearance in addition to utility and comfort.
Last month I covered how a longhouse is built. Today let’s take a look at the interior space.
The pole framework of the longhouse divided its interior into a series of compartments from front to back, with a 10-foot-wide aisle running down its center. The compartment inside the entry at each end of the structure served as common storage for food supplies, firewood, and other items too large to be kept in the individual families’ personal living space. The rest of the compartments provided space for the families that lived there.
Two families lived in each compartment, on opposite sides of the central aisle. They shared a fire pit, which occupied the center of the aisle, so there was a row of fire pits extending from the front to the back of the longhouse, except in the storage areas. To vent the smoke, a hole was made in the roof above each fire pit, with a sheet of bark that could be slid over it in bad weather. When the smoke hole was closed, smoke collected at the high ceiling above the living space for a while, but I’m sure the atmosphere became pretty thick if the vents had to be kept closed for very long! Vents were also sometimes built into the walls to let air and light in, and these also could be closed as needed.
|View of longhouse interior|
It sounds like a pretty practical and efficient living space to me for wilderness areas, though it’s probably not very comfortable in cold or hot weather. When you consider the community that developed in each longhouse as the clan expanded, you gain a new perspective on the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” However, as one reader commented on last month’s post, think of what it would sound like at night with all those men snoring!
Have you encountered other unusual types of human habitations? If so, please share.
Everyone who leaves a comment on this post by the end of the day Monday, May 16, will be entered in a drawing for a free copy of Northkill!
Congratulations and best wishes for your latest project. I will pass your's and Bob's Iroquois Roundhouse piece to Joann, as she has often talked about roundhouse design and uses, especially when visiting Lenape Indian settlements such as Conner Prairie, Glandenhutten, Ohio, Strawtown, Monsee/Minnetrista (Muncie),et al.ReplyDelete
We'll have descriptions of the Lenape wigewa (or wigwam) in The Return, which I think is what you mean by roundhouse, Lou. The Iroquois longhouse is considerably different in that it's much larger and houses a number of families instead of just one, as the wigewa did. They're both built of the same kinds of materials, however, and have a framework made of stripped saplings. And, of course, the items used by both tribes were essentially the same. In the area we're writing about, you had a lot of Seneca mixed in with the Lenape, so you would have seen both kinds of structures.Delete
Joan, thank you for sharing this! This is really interesting.What do you think is the main reason that these tribes lived together in structures such as these?ReplyDelete
Originally I'm sure it was the lack of the kinds of tools for making more complicated structures like log cabins, MammaG, and the desire for families and clans to maintain close connections as families grew. I also suspect it has to do with the old adage It takes a village to raise a child. In the woodland environment, it was easy and quick to construct this kind of structure and more convenient to simply add onto it instead of erecting a separate building as children married and became parents themselves.Delete
Thanks for dropping by! I have you in the drawing. :-)
Joan, Congratulations on your Northkill series!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the pictures, I am a visual person so these pictures really help visualize how they lived.
......(I am not entering the contest as I have Northkill).....
I'm glad you enjoyed the article, Mrs. Tina! If you'd like to enter the drawing, I'm happy to substitute one of my other books for any winner who has Northkill.Delete
I have Northkill as well, and anxiously waiting for The Return..ReplyDelete
MammaG, if you win, you can choose one of my other books, if you'd like. :-)Delete
This is very fascinating, thanks for sharing. Please enter me in the drawing.ReplyDelete
Hi, Chappy Debbie! Thanks for dropping by. Got you entered in the drawing. :-)Delete
Thank you for sharing more about the Iroquois longhouse. Very interesting!ReplyDelete
texaggs2000 at gmail dot com
Glad you enjoyed it, Britney, and thanks for dropping by! Got you entered in the drawing. :-)Delete
Thank you for your very interesting post. I always love coming to HHH for the wonderful posts.ReplyDelete
mauback55 at gmail dot com
This is a great blog for discovering all kinds of historical tit-bits, isn't it, Melanie? Thanks for stopping by! You're entered in the drawing. :-)Delete
I really enjoyed reading your interesting blog post. I've always been fascinated by Native Americans and how they lived. Thank you so much!ReplyDelete
The Native American cultures have always fascinated me too, Kay, particularly the Northeastern Woodland tribes like the Iroquois, Delaware, and Shawnee. Thanks so much for stopping by, and good luck in the drawing!Delete
Very interesting! I kind of feel that the current tiny house movement may have taken some ideas from the 6 by 10 living space each family had. Amazing how they put it all together.ReplyDelete
Dali, I think you may just be right about that! lol! Thanks for stopping by!Delete
Northkill has been on my to-read list for quite awhile now and I'd love to win a copy. Thanks for the opportunity!ReplyDelete
Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl, and good luck in the drawing!Delete
This is another great history lesson from you and HHH. Thank you for sharing and for a chance to win Northkill!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Connie! I'm glad you dropped by, and good luck in the drawing!Delete
Excellent historical data.ReplyDelete