Also known as pueblos are the original housing condos!! used by Native people 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 lived in the same adobe house complex, such as Sky City, for dozens of generations.





Include wickiups, lean-tos, gowa, were temporary dwellings used by many tribes. Brush shelters were typically very small because they were used only for sleeping. It consisted of a simple wooden frame covered with brush (branches, leaves, and grass.) The frame can be cone-shaped, with one side left open as a door, or tent-shaped, with both ends left open. They were used mainly when out camping in the wilderness, on a hunt, etc.. 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. Thunderbird uses a wikiup when out on visionquest (top right).

 Left: Ojibwa Wikiup

WHO USED THEM? Just about everyone. They are still used today only with modern amenities such as canvas tarps to cover them.




Also known as chickee huts, stilt houses or platform dwellings were used primarily in Florida. They consisted of thick posts supporting a thatched roof and a flat wooden platform raised several feet off the ground. They did not have any walls. During rainstorms, tarps would be lashed made of hide or cloth to the frame, but most of the time, the sides of the structure were left open. They were good for people living in a hot, swampy climate. The long posts kept the house from sinking into marshy earth, and raising the floor of the hut off the ground kept swamp animals like snakes out of the house. (that's reassuring!) Walls or permanent house coverings were not necessary in a tropical climate where it never got cold.




They resemble large wigwams but are made with different materials. Grass houses are made with a wooden frame bent into a beehive shape and thatched with long prairie grass. These were large buildings, sometimes more than 40 feet tall.

WHO USED THEM? Southern Plains by tribes such as the Caddos



The first hogan consisted of a fork-stick frame, a pyramid with 5 triangular faces. The first 2 logs are a fork-tipped log placed to the north and a straight male log to the south. The male log is joined into the female fork at the top, symbolizing a strong partnership between a man and a woman, husband and wife, in their future home. Another fork-tipped log is placed from the west (called "Sundown") Two logs are positioned for the open door frame in the east, two more logs placed over the door to frame the entrance, and a final log goes crosswise at the top of the chimney.

To protect it from the elements it was packed with adobe, dirt or clay depending on the location of the community. There are male and female Hogans. Most ceremonies take place within the Male Hogan, it is more aggressive in nature. The Female more nurturing, where the family lives, is loved, food preparation. (Photo right, is a winter Hogun)

Modern Hogans are much more sophisticated, It is still circular but made of lumber and other modern construction items. Hogan doors always face the East to greet the morning sun.


WHO USED THEM?  Diné (Navajo) people  




Traditional Arctic snow dome.  Large snow domes were built as living quarters, singing, dancing, and wrestling competition halls for the community during the long nights of winter.  The hut is tightly sealed with a series of snow blocks; a lamp is lit on the inside. The heat from the candle melts the inside face of the snow blocks, as cold air comes in and out of the entrance the snow turns to ice so that the structure is no longer a snow house but a house of ice. Not used so much anymore except for remote hunting. It is still a significant cultural identifier, however.

In the Summer a sod house was built from the grasses and wood often into sides of hills for insulation purposes.






The Haudenosaunee built villages that were surrounded by wooden Palisades (logs with spiked ends) which protected the people living in the village from attacks by other peoples. Palisades also protected the village from blowing snow in the winter and stopped wild animals from wandering in.

Housing was called Longhouses because they were longer than they were wide. Longhouses had doors at both ends. During the winter, these openings would have been covered with animal skins. There were no windows, as a result, the inside was fairly dark, lit only by the flickering light of the fires.

The Longhouses were built by the men in the village. The wood for the houses was cut down in the spring when it was still flexible, and brought to the village. The ends of the posts were sharpened into points using stone axes, and some were charred, or burned, to make them more durable while in the ground. The walls  were usually made from elm bark that was cut into rectangular slabs to be used for roof shingles and wall siding. Above the fire pit (there was usually two), there was a hole in the roof to let the smoke escape. The roof holes also acted like small skylights, letting a little bit of light into the dark, windowless longhouse. Although the roof holes helped to let some smoke from the fires out of the longhouse, it did not let it all out, and as a result the interior was often suffocatingly smoky.

WHO USED THEM? Haudenosaunee







Background photo are Shoshone Tipis 

WORD ORIGIN - TIPI originates from the Lakota language: TI - meaning 'to dwell or live'; PI - meaning, 'used for'. TIPI means ‘used to live in’.  Indigenous to the people of the Plains, including: Lakota, Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, Crows, Hidatsa, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Apache. Much later: Commanche, Utes, Shoshone, Nez Perce, Flathead, Cayuse, Umatilla, Kutenais.

TRADITIONAL TIPI - is a tilted cone, steeper at the back, with the smoke hole extending some distance down the more gently sloping side, or front of the tipi, and with two flaps called smoke flaps, ears, or wings. The smoke hole above could be adjusted to keep smoke in or to let it out. Built on upwards of fourteen poles each usually 24' in length. 

The tipi was an ideal shelter because it could be used in both hot and cold weather, particularly in the winter when extreme winds blew across the plains. Areas of domestication of the Plains Indians tended to revolve around mobility because the Plains Indians followed the migratory path of their food source, (primarily buffalo or bison). Encampments were usually constructed in a circle or semi-circle, with a fire in the centre which provided heat and a meeting place. Other fire pits were located near or inside individual tipis for cooking and drying. A Tipi faced east to receive the morning sun with its back to the prevailing high winds.

ANIMAL HIDES - The outside was created by layering animal skins, which were often painted in bright colours to show the personalities of the owners. Anywhere from 8-20 different animal hides were used to cover a tipi. Tipis were primarily erected and taken down by the women! I am not worthy!

Contrary to popular belief the hides were not heavy - the tanning process was so fine that although it might rain heavily, water would not pass through nor stiffen the hide, but rather upon drying would remain soft and pliable as before. The weight was approximately 50 pounds, the maximum that could be borne by a large dog, which prior to the introduction of the horse in the 1600s, was the primary method of transportation. (see Size below).

SIZE: Average width was between 12 and 18 feet. Early indications were that the tipis were quite small before horses replaced dogs as draft animals and, therefore, could carry heavy loads.

CANVAS: With the destruction of the Buffalo and the substitution of canvas for hides, the tipi still remains much the same in apperaance. Also,  canvas was lighter than buffalo hides, and made it possible to erect larger tipis, (between 20-30 feet in diameter). Tipis went out of common with the Plains Indians during the first two decades of the 20th century, but it is still a major cultural identifier and icon.

WHO PUT 'EM UP, WHO TOOK 'EM DOWN - THE WOMEN! - I sing an honour song for these tough warrior women. I am clearly not worthy!

Hanging from the top of the lining in the rear of the lodge is a bull-hide shield, a tobacco bag, a medicine bag, and several other little pouches. In the corners between the backrests are rawhide boxes made in pairs. Religious and sacred objects were stored and hung in the rear of the lodge. Men’s weapons were stored on the north side, because MEN SAT IN THE NORTH. Women’s belongings were stored on the south side, BECAUSE WOMEN SAT IN THE SOUTH. Wood  was stored on the south side near the door.

TIPI AS A TEMPLE: The floor represented Mother Earth; the sides of the tipi represented Father Sky; the poles represented the trails between Mother Earth and The Great Spirit (Wakan Tanka).

The Altar was directly behind the fireplace - a little space of bare earth. Usually in the shape of a square pulverized and brushed clean. Lakota called it ‘the square of mellowed earth’. It represented Mother Earth, sweet grass, sage and cedar were burned as incense to the spirits.

If door open, friends could simply walk in. If door closed, they called out or rattled the door covering and waited for an invitation.

WHO USED THEM? Plains Tribes, Plains Cree, Oji-Cree, Nez Perce




The Cherokee called them 'Asi'. Housing used by most southeastern tribes. Wattle and daub houses are made by weaving river cane, wood, and vines into a frame, then coating the frame with plaster. The roof was either thatched with grass or shingled with bark. Wattle and daub houses are permanent structures because of their difficulty to build. Like longhouses, they were good homes for agricultural people who intended to stay in one place. Wattle and daub houses required a fairly warm climate to dry the plaster.

WHO USED THEM? Cherokee, Creek




The word "Wigwam" comes from the Mi'Kmaq  "Wiknon" meaning dwelling. Housing reflected a need for mobility.  Most common was the domed-shaped dwelling known as a wigwam. Generally, saplings were driven into the ground and then bent and tied together. Sheets of birch bark were used to cover the structure (both sides and roof). They also built tipi-shaped structures as well also covered with birch bark. The English word "wigwam" comes from the Mi'kmaq word "wiknom" meaning a dwelling

  1. Ojibwa, Innu (Montagnais and Naskapi), Abanaki, Métis. Domed dwellings that were originally covered with sheets of wigwass (birch bark), Hence the name ‘wigwam’. Wigwass was important throughout an Ojibwa’s life, from the decoration found on the cradle to the ‘winding sheet’ made of bark used as a shroud. Ojibwa travelled in birch bark canoes and fashioned the versatile material into boxes, posts, buckets, scrolls and torches.  

  2. Swampy and Woodlands Cree of Hudson's Bay are also used wigwam, but covered them with moose hide or caribou skins because of the scarcity of birch bark in the north. The Plains Cree used  used a fifteen pole tipi, with each pole representing a sacred teaching.  For example, obedience, respect, humility, happiness, love, faith. 

  3. Mi'kmaq used efficient portable bark-covered wigwams, so light they could be rolled up and transported. five spruce poles, lashed together at the top with split spruce root and spread out at the bottom. A hoop of moosewood was tied under the poles just down from the top to brace them. Shorter poles tied to the hoop all around provided supports for the birch bark cover. Birch bark sheets were laid over the poles like shingles, starting from the bottom and overlapping as they worked up the wigwam One-family dwellings primarily; large ones could hold up to twelve people. Floor of fir branches with hides placed over these for beds.

  4. Lenape-Delaware lived in Wigwams, although some preferred the Haudenosaunne Longhouse because more people could be fitted in.

 Abenaki Wigwam




Lenape Wigwam






The birch bark canoe (in spring and summer) was Indigenous to the Cree, Haudenosaunee, Lenape, Anishinaabe and Métis cultures in the interior of Canada.  It was light, swift and easily portaged (carried) between waterways. The canoes were made in all sizes, from small, single person canoes to an incredible size that could carry up to 50 paddlers. These canoes ranged in length between 10 and 24 feet. Larger canoes required a huge amount of labour even though the materials were readily available. The task of building a giant canoe included: gathering the bark and root lashings, carving the manboards and laminating the prow pieces, bending and lashing the gunwales and inserting the hand-carved thwarts, stitching up the seams and gores, ripping and laying the cedar planking, bending and inserting the 30 or more ribs, and caulking the seams and holes with pine gum, and finally decorating by etching or painting the bark. In winter travel included: snowshoes, toboggans and sleds in winter.

Smaller birchbark or spruce bark canoes for hunting or raiding parties could be made

more expediently because there was no planking or elaborate designs in small canoes. The small canoes were not as durable but with care could last up to five years.

Without the canoe, the opening of Canada from sea to sea would have been extremely difficult if not impossible. Sails were added in the 17th century.



Umiak - large open boats made of seal or walrus skins; these boats were usually handled by women. They were used to transport the dogs, together with tents and other supplies and equipment. Occasionally they were used for hunting.

Kayak - light canoe made by stretching skins over a wooden framework. The photo is of a seal skin kayak



he wide bottomed Mi'kmaq canoe was raised at both ends and the sides curved upwards in the middle. This shape allowed the Mi'kmaq to canoe far out to sea as well as in shallow streams and even in rapids. Canoes were 3m to 8m long, made of birchbark over a light wooden frame. A small canoe could take a load of several hundred pounds but was light enough for one person to carry. In winter travel included: snowshoes, toboggans and sleds.



DOGS:  For the nomadic peoples such as the Plains Native people, dogs were the primary source for transporting household goods.  A good, strong dog, could carry up to fifty pounds.  It was arduous and slow; and many dogs were needed to help transport a household. Prior to the introduction of the Horse, most tribes used dogs to transport household goods.

HORSES: Horses were introduced around 1540 when Spanish explorers De Soto and Coronado came to Turtle Island; by about 1745, horses had spread  all across Turtle Island, making hunting (Buffalo), transportation and warfare/raids much easier and swifter.  When the first horses arrived they looked like large, magical dogs which is why many Plains Indians called horses "sacred dogs". One horse could carry the weight previously carried by 10-12 dogs. Horses had pretty much spread to the Plains by 1760.  The Plains Native people became particularly skilled at horsemanship; horses became a much coveted prize and raiding parties would be sent out for the express purpose of stealing horses. 


Travois: two long poles strapped on either side of the horse, upon which worldly goods would be tied down.  Women and children could also be transported in this manner.


Inuit used dog sleds.

Now, snowmobiles are used primarily. Dog sledding is now mostly for sport and for tourism.