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Wickiup - a Ute house

Wickiup – a Ute house

Most people who belonged to the Ute group of Native Americans lived in what is now Utah and Colorado, in the high western plains and in the Rocky Mountains. They built wooden houses called wickiups.

You build a wickiup by cutting down young willow trees (saplings). You need about thirty of them. Then you strip off all the small branches (but save them). You stick the poles into small holes in the ground in a circle so they will stand up. Then you bend over the poles in pairs (across the circle from each other) and tie the tops together with thin strips of bark or leather. When you have all the poles tied together you attach branches horizontally all the way around. Then you cover the whole thing with the small branches, cotton blankets, leather skins, big leaves, long grass, or anything else you have handy.

Ute people in front of their wickiup house

Ute people in front of their wickiup house

Wickiups (WICK-ee-ups) were not meant to live in like your house today. They’re more like the way you use your tent when you go camping. You keep your stuff inside, and you sleep in there sometimes (especially if it looks like rain), but otherwise you spend most of your time outside – you cook outside, and you play outside, and you go to the bathroom outside (privately, away from other people), and sometimes you sleep outside.
But sometimes people did build fires inside their wickiup, to keep warm. People built fires on the ground in a circle of stones, and sometimes had a large flat stone in front of the fire like a hearth. They brought piles of juniper tree bark inside the wickiup to use as beds.

When Ute people were traveling around gathering food, they sometimes made a simple shelter to get out of the sun or the wind by just breaking a tree branch partway through and bending it down to the ground. They also built platforms in trees like your treehouse to store food on or to use as lookout posts.

Learn by doing: building a wickiup
More about the early Ute people

Bibliography and further reading about wickiups:


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