Longhouses were built and repaired as needed by the men.
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 long.
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 own house.
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.
Once the land was cleared, the men made a frame out of long poles of wood.
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 as needed.
Later, the people might go back and add to the longhouse, making it even longer as needed. Longhouses, once built, lasted about twenty years.
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 homes.
Native American Homes in Olden Times
Life in the Longhouse
Return to Iroquois Daily Life
Return to the Northeast Native Americans Index
or the Native American Index
Native Americans for Kids
Native Americans in US, Canada, and the Far North
Early people of North America (during the ice
age 40,000 years ago)
Northeast Woodland Tribes and Nations
- The Northeast Woodlands include all five great lakes as well as the Finger Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River. Come explore the 3 sisters,
longhouses, village life, the League of Nations, sacred trees, snowsnake games, wampum, the
arrowmaker, dream catchers, night messages, the game of sep and more. Special Sections:
The Lenape Indians. Read two
myths: Wise Owl and
The Invisible Warrior.
Southeast Woodland Tribes and Nations
- The Indians of the Southeast were considered members of the Woodland Indians. The
people believed in many deities, and prayed in song and dance
for guidance. Explore the darkening land, battle techniques, clans and marriage, law and order, and
more. Travel the Trail of Tears.
Indians and Cherokee
Plains Indians - What was life like in
what is now the Great Plains region of the United States? Some
tribes wandered the plains in search of foods. Others settled down and grew crops. They spoke different
was the buffalo so important? What different did horses make?
What was coup counting? Who was
Southwest Indians -
Pueblo is not the
name of a tribe. It is a Spanish word for village. The Pueblo People are the decedents of the
Navajo and the
Apache arrived in the southwest in the 1300s. They
both raided the peaceful
Pueblo tribes for food and
other goods. Who were the Devil Dancers? Why are blue stones important? What is a wickiup? Who was
Child of Water?
Pacific Coastal Northwest Indians -
What made some of the Pacific Northwest Indian tribes "rich" in ancient times? Why were woven mats so
important? How did totem poles get started? What was life like
in the longhouse? What were money blankets and coppers? How did
the fur trade work? How did
Raven Steal Crow's
Inland Plateau People - About
10,000 years ago, different tribes of Indians settled in the Northwest Inland Plateau region of the
United States and Canada, located between two huge mountain ranges - the Rockies and the Cascades. The
Plateau stretches from BC British Columbia all the way down to nearly Texas. Each village was independent, and each had a
democratic system of government. They were deeply religious and believed spirits could be found
everything - in both living and non-living things. Meet the
California Indians - The Far West was
a land of great diversity. Death Valley and Mount Whitney are the highest and lowest points in the
United States. They are within sight of each other. Tribes living in what would become California were
as different as their landscape.