Pacific Northwest Coastal Native Americans - Plank Houses Illustration

Pacific Coastal Northwest Plank Houses
Native Americans
in Olden Times for Kids

The Northwest Pacific Coastal Native Americans did not live in tepees as did the Yakima 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: 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 provided color.

Native American Homes in Olden Times







Earth Homes

Adobe Pueblo

Northwest Plank Houses


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