Wigwams are made of wooden frames which are covered with woven mats and sheets of birchbark. The frame can be shaped like a dome, like a cone, or like a rectangle with an arched roof. Once the birchbark is in place, ropes or strips of wood are wrapped around the wigwam to hold the bark in place. Here are some pictures of a woman building a wigwam.
cone-shaped dome-shaped rectangular shape wigwam frame
Wigwams are good houses for people who stay in the same place for months at a time. Most Algonquian Indians lived together in settled villages during the farming season, but during the winter, each family group would move to their own hunting camp. Wigwams are not portable, but they are small and easy to build. Woodland Indian families could build new wigwams every year when they set up their winter camps.
Inside the longhouse, raised platforms created a second story, which was used for sleeping space. Mats and wood screens divided the longhouse into separate rooms. Each longhouse housed an entire clan-- as many as 60 people!
Longhouses are good homes for people who intend to stay in the same place for a long time. A longhouse is large and takes a lot of time to build and decorate. The Iroquois were farming people who lived in permanent villages. Iroquois men sometimes built wigwams for themselves when they were going on hunting trips, but women might live in the same longhouse their whole life.
Indian tepee photograph picture of tepees being set up
Tepees are good houses for people who are always on the move. Plains Indians migrated frequently to follow the movements of the buffalo herds. An entire Plains Indian village could have their tepees packed up and ready to move within an hour. There were fewer trees on the Great Plains than in the Woodlands, so it was important for Plains tribes to carry their long poles with them whenever they traveled instead of trying to find new ones each time they moved.
Wichita grass house Caddo grass house construction
Grass houses are good homes for people in a warm climate. In the northern plains, winters are too cold to make homes out of prairie grass. But in the southern plains of Texas, houses like these were comfortable for the people who used them.
rivercane frame plastered and thatched
Wattle and daub houses are permanent structures that take a lot of effort to build. Like longhouses, they are good homes for agricultural people who intended to stay in one place, like the Cherokees and Creeks. Making wattle and daub houses requires a fairly warm climate to dry the plaster.
drawing of a chickee Seminole chickee
Chickees are good homes for people living in a hot, swampy climate. The long posts keep the house from sinking into marshy earth, and raising the floor of the hut off the ground keeps swamp animals like snakes out of the house. Walls or permanent house coverings are not necessary in a tropical climate where it never gets cold.
Adobe houses (also known as pueblos) are Native American house complexes used by the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest. Adobe pueblos are modular, multi-story houses made of adobe (clay and straw baked into hard bricks) or of large stones cemented together with adobe. Each adobe unit is home to one family, like a modern apartment. The whole structure, which can contain dozens of units, is often home to an entire extended clan.
Adobe houses are good homes to build in a warm, dry climate where adobe can be easily mixed and dried. These are homes for farming people who have no need to move their village to a new location. In fact, some Pueblo people have been living in the same adobe house complex, such as Sky City, for dozens of generations.
Pawnee earth lodge Navajo hogan Alaskan sod house
Earthern houses are good for people who want permanent homes and live in an area that is not forested. (It's difficult work to excavate underground homes in areas with many tree roots!) Living partially underground has several benefits, especially in harsh climates-- the earth offers natural protection from wind and strong weather.
Plank houses are good houses for people in cold climates with lots of tall trees. However, only people who don't need to migrate spend the time and effort to build these large permanent homes. Most Native Americans who live in the far northern forests must migrate regularly to follow caribou herds and other game, so plank houses aren't a good choice for them. Only coastal tribes, who make their living by fishing, made houses like these.
Inuit (Eskimo) igloo Building an igloo Inside an igloo
Igloos are good houses for the polar region, where the earth is frozen, the snow cover is deep, and there are few trees. Snow is a good insulator, and dense blocks of ice offer good protection against the arctic winds.
Most Native Americans only made a brush shelter when they were out camping in the wilderness. But some migratory tribes who lived in warm dry climates, such as the Apache tribes, built brush shelters as homes on a regular basis. They can be assembled quickly from materials that are easy to find in the environment, so people who build villages of brush shelters can move around freely without having to drag teepee poles.