Inuit houses - the igloo
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Inuit Houses - Igloos


A boy building an igloo

Most of the time, most Inuit people lived in wooden houses built near the coast, where they could get to their fishing boats easily. They built their houses out of driftwood that washed up on the beach, and covered them with dirt to keep them warm. There was not enough wood so far north to keep fires going, so the Inuit built their houses very small, so that people's body heat was enough to keep them warm.

Inuit people only stayed in an igloo when they were camping, or got stuck out in a sudden snowstorm. Hunters could build an igloo in about half an hour, and that could save their lives if a blizzard blew up suddenly.

Inuit village
An Inuit village in 1575 AD

Some Inuit in eastern Canada and Greenland did live in igloos all winter, sleeping on beds made of snow covered with twigs and caribou furs. In the summer, when these igloos melted, the family moved into leather tents.

Learn by doing: try to build an igloo out of snow (hint: use a shoebox to pack bricks)
More about the early Inuit

Bibliography and further reading about early Inuit architecture:

Ute architecture
Navaho architecture
Cherokee architecture
Native American architecture
Native Americans
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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