Longhouses were built and repaired as needed by the
Longhouses were not measured by feet. They were
measured by camp fires. Although each family had its own assigned
place in the longhouse, fire pits ran down the middle of the longhouse
for heat and for everyone to share to use for cooking.
A longhouse might be referred to as 10 fires long, or
perhaps as 12 fires
It doesn't sound like much when you count by
fires. But longhouses were really long - they could be over 200 feet
long, 25 feet wide, and 25 feet high. That's huge! To get an idea of
how big they were, measure the distance from floor to ceiling in your
You can imagine something that big took a lot of
work to build. And it did. It took work and teamwork.
First, the men cleared the land. Nothing
was wasted. Twigs and trees alike were used in many ways.
the land was cleared, the men made a frame out of long poles of
Then, they tied young trees to the frame, trees young enough to
bend and shape.
Once they had the shape of the longhouse in place,
they covered the house with bark.
They added a few smoke holes and two
doors - one at each end.
The Iroquois rigged a flap on the smoke
holes. When it snowed or rained, the holes could be opened and closed
Later, the people might go back and add to the longhouse,
making it even longer as needed. Longhouses, once built, lasted about
Many longhouses had a huge pole fence built
around them for additional protection. Stairs were built on the inside
of the fence, so that archers could easily climb up and defend
against attack. The poles ended in long sharp points to discourage
anyone from climbing over.
Longhouses were so important to the Iroquois way
of life that, even today, the Iroquois call themselves "the People of the
Longhouse", although today, the Iroquois people live in modern