Everyone would have gone camping in forests or at least would have built a tent-like thing using bedsheets during their childhood. Have you ever wondered, who inspired the structure of a camping tent? Do you know that the camping tents you use are inspired by the housing style of Native Americans called tepees and wigwam? You might not know much about Native American shelters which are referred to as wigwam homes or tepees by European colonists in reference to their food habits, culture, etc. This article mainly focuses on the houses of Native American people. Before delving into the homes of Native American shelters, let’s explore their origin first.
Native Americans Origin
Native Americans are also known as the indigenous people of America or the first people to occupy the land of America. Though you know how they look from certain movies like Pocahontas, Lone Ranger, etc, it is believed that the ancestors of the current indigenous group might have come to America 15,000 years ago or much before from Asia via Beringia, a maritime area bounded by Russia and Canada on both sides. The European colonization led to new diseases, war, ethnic cleansing, and enslavement leading to the abrupt decrease of the Native American population. After the 20th century, the constitution of America was reconstructed to protect, support, and have rights for the Native Americans. (See What is a Community?)
Native American Tribes
Before the European colonization and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people, it is estimated that around 600 types of tribal groups existed and spoke diverse dialects. Currently, there exist only 574 federally recognized tribal groups that are eligible for funds and services from the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs). (See What Does Nomad Stand For?)
Native American Shelters
The innovational and industrious nature of Native Americans is reflected in the architectural structure of their home. The houses of the indigenous people differ for each of the tribes and their climatic conditions. Some houses were built to withstand cold, some were built during the extreme heat of summer, and some were built to stay temporarily. The house construction also depended on the duration of their stay as some tribes were settlers and some were nomadic. (See 7 Moat Around Castle Facts)
Materials used in Native American Shelters
Native Americans made the best out of what they had to build their homes. Depending on the geographical condition and availability of things, they craftily constructed their homes.
- In the Great Lake region where the forests are present in abundance, the houses were made of birch bark.
- In the Southern plains, they built houses using grasses. This region is usually known for its lengthy grasses which are as tall as humans. Also, check out the road construction process.
- In the Southeast part of the United States, the houses built by Native Americans consist of clay, wooden frames, vines, and canes. (See Outhouse Design)
3 Types of Native American Shelters
The Native American shelters were called tepees or wigwam by the Europeans due to the misunderstanding of the Native American language. Generally, there are several styles of houses built by Native Americans that have their names. Though the shelters of indigenous people look inhabitable, the architecture of their houses is crafter with brilliance. Although over a thousand types of houses exist, we will mainly discuss only three. (See What is the Standard Door Size?)
1. Wigwam Homes
Wigwam homes is one of the house styles built for interim and portability. Built of sheets and wooden frames and made from the barks of the birch tree, these wigwam houses are usually eight to ten feet tall and have the shape of a dome, cone, or rectangle on the top of the house. This structure is also called a birchbark house. This type of house belongs to the Algonquian Indians of the Northeastern part of the United States. The word wigwam means house in some Algonquian languages. The word wigwam translates to a house in the Abenaki tribe also. Wigwam structures are seen predominantly near farming settlements, especially during harvesting seasons. (See What is a Wigwam?)
Indians who lived on plains chose this type of housing. Teepees less commonly called tipi are made of animal hides and long poles in the shape of cones. Tipi is differentiated from other conical types of houses by the presence of smoke flaps at the top of the structure. This house is built in such a fashion that it keeps them cool in summer and warm during winters. The animal hide is cut to make the entrance and exit of the tepees. Due to their nomadic lifestyle of living, Indians who lived on plains preferred this type of home and they also painted with historical events such as battles or personal experiences like hunting, dreams, visions, etc. Also, check out what is a Flight of Stairs?
3. Wattle and Daub houses
These houses were built by the Southeastern tribes to live permanently. These houses are built near agricultural lands by Native American settlers as this type of house takes a lot of effort to build. These houses are built by making wooden frames from vines or wood and then coating them with mud or clay. Then the top of the house is thatched with grasses. Since mud and clay are applied in the frames, the building of wattle and daub houses requires warm or hot climatic conditions. Must read what is the Average Garage Door Size?
Some more common Native American shelters are grass houses, plank houses, Chickees, Brush shelters, Kiich houses, etc. One of the special mentions is the cliff houses built by the Anasazi tribes of Southwestern America. These cliff dwellings are built on either the side of cliffs or under the overhangs of a cliff. These houses are built for protection and can be only entered using hanging ladders. (See How to Size a Rough Opening for Bifold Door?)
So, today you learned about the Native American shelters. Do the Native Americans still live in houses like wigwam structures? Not at all. Though they started living in brick houses the wigwam houses became a huge architectural attraction that some resorts have wigwam structures instead of normal rooms. (See What are the Characteristics of Population?)