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Iroquois longhouse - an old etching of a building shaped like an upside down U

Iroquois longhouse – where Iroquois people lived

What is an Iroquois longhouse?

Most people who lived in the Iroquois nation lived in longhouses. An Iroquois longhouse is just what it sounds like, a long house, built of thin bendable wood, with branches woven in and out of the joists.

Who were the Iroquois?
Other Native American houses
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On the outside, people used slabs of birchbark to make a waterproof covering. Birchbark was readily available all over the forest floor. You didn’t have to pull it from living trees. And birchbark doesn’t rot easily, so it lasts a long time.

Why did Iroquois people build houses out of wood?

The Iroquois built their houses out of wood because the area where they lived (modern New York State and Pennsylvania) had a lot of trees, but it didn’t have much good building stone, or clay for bricks. So wood was the most appropriate choice for the Iroquois. Other people who lived in longhouses include the Chinook, the Guarani, and early medieval British people.

Chinook longhouses
Medieval European houses
Who were the Guarani?

How many people lived in a longhouse?

Longhouses were big enough so that a lot of people could live in one longhouse. Usually you lived with not just your mom and dad and brothers and sisters, but also with your cousins and aunts, and your grandparents. But only the relatives on your mother’s side. Your relatives on your father’s side would live in a different longhouse (but generally nearby).

Public buildings among the Iroquois

People in Iroquoia mostly didn’t build public buildings like schools or churches or courthouses then. Anything where people needed to meet usually took place outside, instead, or in somebody’s longhouse. An Iroquois longhouse was big enough to hold a lot of people. They did build wooden fences around their villages, to keep deer and raccoons from eating their food, and to keep enemies out of the village.

Did you find out what you wanted to know about an Iroquois longhouse? Let us know in the comments!

Learn by doing: compare Iroquois longhouses to medieval European houses
More about the early Iroquois

Bibliography and further reading about Iroquois longhouses:


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