Homes - Plateau Indians in Olden Times
Homes: The people of the Plateau had three basic needs for shelter. They needed a warm place for the winter months. They needed a semi-temporary place to use for seasonal hunting, fishing, and gathering sites. They needed a temporary shelter for short trips for collecting certain items.
Winter Homes/Pit-Houses: They had well established winter villages built on the banks of a major waterway. Homes were built partially underground. Some were little round houses with dirt roofs. Some were long lodges. They were both pit-houses.
To build a pit-house, first you dug a pit about six feet deep. Some pit-houses were built for a small family group and perhaps were only 20 feet in diameter. But some were much larger - as much as 60 feet wide and 100 feet long. The small ones were usually oval in shape. The large ones were usually rectangular. But construction of all pit-houses started by digging a pit that was the outline of the house.
Once you had dug the pit, next you piled up rocks to make walls. Then you added some wooden posts to support a roof. Roofs were made of everything from planks to woven reeds. (Baskets and mats were also made out of reeds.)
Interior of homes and lodges: The interior of the lodge was divided into compartments down each side, with an open living section down the middle, which was used as a passageway and as a place for winter campfires. There were two families for each fire, one on either side. There were one or more holes in the roof to allow the smoke to escape. A wooden ladder was placed at one end of the house to get in and out. There was very little furniture. Mats were used as rugs and beds. Baskets were used to store clothing and a few personal goods.
Possessions: You might read on the web that the Plateau Indians spent their winters bragging about their wealth. This is not so; just the opposite actually. The Northwest Coastal Indians bragged about their wealth. But the Plateau Inland Indians, unlike the Northwest Coastal Indians, valued talent and knowledge above wealth. People did have personal possessions, but they were few in number. Everyone had the necessities of life.
The summer house was built to last several seasons. It was usually a lean to or a teepee. The ones used at fishing camps were the best built. When they found a good fishing hole, they came back to the same place year after year.
The temporary shelters were frames covered with brush or bark. When the Plateau Indians met the Plains Indians they adopted the Plains method of dragging their temporary structure behind the horses, and covered these teepees with buffalo hides.