Scenes from the Eastern Woodlands
A Virtual Tour ~ Circa 1550
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Building our wigwam ...
You will see the men bending flexible saplings over, and lashing them together with basswood bark, in a criss-crossing pattern to make the domed shaped frame of the houses. The saplings are sometimes made of birch or willow, straight and with few branches, and at least 14 feet long. The saplings are cut, trimmed and sharpened on the wide end with the metal ax that the men got in trading with Europeans who recently came here.
These poles are then set into holes in the ground, spaced about two feet apart, in the pattern of a circle. After the arches are lashed together, three or four sapling hoops will be put around the frame for further support.
When the frame is done, the wigwams will be covered with sewn cattail mats (like the wigwam in the foreground), or with heavy sheets of elm bark (like the wigwam in the background). Spaces are left uncovered for a doorway (or two). A 'smoke-hole' at the top of each wigwam was left open or partially covered, to let out the smoke from the central fire inside. Both doorways and smoke-holes had adjustable mats fastened to them so they could be covered or closed during rain or snow.
This series is now available as a soft-cover book:
"Woodland Windows," with expanded descriptive
text and additional resource materials
Text and Graphics
© 1994 - Tara Prindle
unless otherwise cited.