The Longhouse (or Birch Bark House) was a long, narrow house that was traditionally built by the American Native Indians of the Northeast Woodlands. The tribes who used the longhouse were those belonging to the powerful Iroquois Confederacy which included the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca people. The men of the tribes were hunters and fishers whilst the women raised corn, beans, squash and tobacco. The Iroquois were also known as the Haudenosaunee or the "People of the Longhouse". The term 'longhouse' referred to the construction of their dwellings and their communal lifestyle. Members of the same clan shared a longhouse.
Picture of an Iroquois Longhouse
Longhouse Villages Inter-tribal warfare was harsh and frequent so that people of many of the tribes lived in longhouse villages which were fortified by fencing (palisades) and reinforced with mud. The Iroquois and many other Tribes in the Northeast lived in villages surrounded by a fortified fence called a palisade including the tribes belonging to the Powhatan Confederacy.
Susquehannock Fort of Longhouses (this tribe were enemies of the Iroquois)
Algonkin Village of Pomeiock, on Albemarle Sound, in 1585
Description of the Longhouse - House Exterior Longhouses were the names given to the permanent houses built by the Iroquois. The Longhouses were built up to 200 feet long, 20 feet wide and 20 feet high. The frames of the longhouses were made with poles which were covered with bark that was cut into rectangular slabs. A variety of different trees were used to build a longhouse, depending on the tree’s strength, flexibility and resistance to decay. The roof of a typical Iroquois longhouse was rounded rather than peaked. There were two doors for the entire building, one at each end. Separate rooms were created in longhouses by using wooden screens and mats. Through the house from doorway to doorway ran a central passage: the space on either side of this was divided by partitions of skins into a series of stalls, each of which was occupied by a family. A series of fires were placed in the central passage for heating, cooking, and light, the smoke escaped from a hole left in the roof above it. Some longhouses had 2 storeys. A raised platform created the top storey of the longhouse which was used for sleeping or storage. A large house of this kind might have five or even more hearths, and would be occupied by twenty or more families. The symbol of the family or clan was placed on the exterior of the longhouse building.
Longhouse Interior A Longhouse would have been very dark and smoky inside as there were no windows. Each family lived in a compartment. Above the compartment was a storage shelf for essential items such as clothing, blankets, mats, pots, tools and weapons A large, deep storage pit, lined with bark and grass with a bark mat lid, was was dug inside the longhouse and used to store food. Dried food was hung from the rafters. The sources of light were the smoke holes in the roof of the longhouse, from the light of the fire and during the summer there would have been light from the doors at either end of the longhouse. During the winter the doors would have been covered with animal hides to keep the cold and animals out. Indian houses, such as the longhouse, contained little or no furniture. Some blankets or skins served as a bed and there were no tables or chairs.
Longhouse - Facts about Native American Homes for kids
Native American homes and shelters
Interesting Facts and information about Longhouse
Longhouse homework resource about Native American longhouse for kids, students and teachers
Pictures and Videos of Native Americans The Native American Longhouse. Discover the vast selection of pictures which relate to the History of Native Americans and illustrate many of the houses, homes and shelters used by American Indians. The pictures on this website show the houses, clothing, war paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes that can be used as a really useful educational history resource for kids and children of all ages. We have included pictures and videos to accompany the main topic of this section - Longhouse. The videos enable fast access to the images, paintings and pictures together with information and many historical facts. All of the articles and pages can be accessed via the Native Indian Tribes Index - a great educational resource for kids.