Longhouses - The Iroquois in Olden Times for Kids and Teachers Illustration

Native Americans
in Olden Times for Kids

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

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