The Northwest Pacific Coastal Indians
did not live in tepees as
did the Yakima Indians of Eastern Washington.
Instead, they lived in
longhouses built of thick cedar planks. These homes were also called
plank houses. These early people chopped down and split massive cedar
trees using beaver teeth and stone axes. Amazing!
The longhouses were huge. Some were about 100
feet long and 25 feet wide, with low roofs for easy heating. The only
openings in the whole building was the entrance door and a hole in the
roof to allow smoke to escape.
If the longhouse was built by the tribe, the
Chief would assign space within the longhouse. Each family would be
assigned a living area, a space of their own, within the house.
If an individual built the longhouse for his own
family, he lived in that longhouse, along with his wife, his male and
female children and their children. As each member of the family grew
to adulthood and married, they were assigned space for their family,
within the family longhouse.
When the owner of the house died, this
arrangement ended. Either the house was given away to someone outside
the family or it was burnt to the ground. It was believed if the
family remained the spirit of the departed might be either bothered by
them or worried about them. To avoid the possibility of this, the
family had to move and live elsewhere.
Whether space in the plank house was assigned by
the father of a family, or by the chief of a tribe, daily life in each
plank house was the same. The only thing that
varied was the size of the house.
Furniture was pretty simple. In their private area,
each family built bunk beds for sleeping. Above the bunks, underneath
the rafters of the longhouse, they built open shelves to hold personal
belongings and stores of food. Underneath the bottom bunk, they dug a
hole, about two feet deep, into the earth, to store other foods.
Their separate areas were tidy, cheerful and
colorful. Clothing, blankets, mats, and beautifully woven baskets
in Olden Times