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Basket House of the South Atlantic Coast

When the Spanish arrived on the coast of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, they observed small houses near the beaches which were woven like baskets. In, what is now South Carolina and Georgia, these “basket houses” were only used in the warm months as fishing camps. However, the Tequesta People living in the coastal areas of far southeastern Florida lived in them year round. The houses were literally woven from dry palmetto fronds like they were over-sized baskets. They functioned much like a screened porch today – air could circulate, but insects and rain drops couldn’’t penetrate the walls. Very similar woven houses were used by the Potawatomi People in the Upper Great Lakes Region in the late summer and early autumn, when they were gathering wild rice and fishing on the lakes. It is quite possible that the “basket house” were once a tradition throughout much of North America for summer time housing. Since their construction was basically woven leaves, reinforced with saplings, nothing remains of these houses on archaeological...

Apache Wickiup

During the late 1800s, certain bands of the Apache Indians of Arizona and New Mexico were able to tie down large numbers of United States and Mexican soldiers while living in the most primitive of dwellings – the wickiup. What is particularly interesting about their huts is that its appearance was probably identical to the housing used by most Native Americans 5000 years ago. In fact, the indigenous people of New England were still living in very similar huts when the Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower. One can not imagine how cold those huts were in the winter. Unlike more sophisticated housing of other cultures, it was not possible to build a fire within the wickiup. The interior was too small and the entire hut was very flammable. The occupants apparently compensated by thoroughly wrapping themselves with furs, and by the time of the above photo, with Navajo blankets. The wickiup was constructed with saplings and vines. A hemispherical frame would be woven in a manner similar to a basket. Then thatch or roof bark was attached to the frame with vines or leather thongs. The basic frame was so light weight, that some tribes living in desert regions would carry the scarce wood saplings with them when they traveled to new...

Choctaw Houses

The primitive habitations of the Choctaw who lived on the north shore of Pontchartrain are described as having been of two types, circular and rectangular. The frames were formed of small saplings; the tops and sides were constructed of palmetto thatch.1 According to the present inhabitants, many of the circular houses were large, affording shelter for many persons. Only one door was made, this in most cases facing the south. A fire was kindled on the ground within the lodge, the smoke passing out through an opening made for the purpose at the top near the center. The later form of habitation is shown in the following image. It will be seen that the sides, formed of thin planks, are arranged in the same way as the palmetto thatch of former days.FootnotesA house of this kind is pictured in plate 3, from a photograph taken near Mandeville, St. Tammany parish, about 1879, which was secured by the late Dr. A. S. Gatschet. The palmetto house is said to have been in use within the last ten...

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