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Group Project - NA Class

Rebecca York 10:00 M/W/F (N.I.C.)

Native American Housing - Pre-Contact

"The Principal People"

Cherokee/Tsalagi Southeast Housing

Cherokee/Tsalagi pre-contact housing has been difficult to find. There are many sketches and drawings but no actual pictures of the real thing or any models or replicas that I could find except the below photos. I will give four examples of pre-contact S.E./Cherokee housing.

From "The Cherokee People", by Thomas E. Mails:

photo also from: "The Cherokee People", by Thomas E. Mails - late pre-historic dwelling

All of the men from a village would gather to build houses. A complete good-sized dwelling could be erected and finished in a day. They would mark the dimensions of the house on the ground, and then the timbers were cut and marked. They used plummet stones suspended on thongs to align the walls. They set strong poles deep in the ground at regular intervals and the poles extended above for six to seven feet. The posts were usually dried locust and sassafras for durability and endurance. The posts were notched at the top and wall plates were laid on op of the notches. A large post, also notched, was set in the center of each gable. The ridgepole, which ran the length of the house, was tied at regular intervals using bark strips or splinters of white oak or hickory. The finishing ceiling consisted of matlike layers of split saplings or bundles consisting of three large winter canes that were tied together place above the rafters or saplings. The roof was then shingled with the bark of pine or cypress.

Exterior wall spaces were filled with vertically placed split sticks and poles that were tied together and then strengthened by horizontally placed saplings. These were then plastered both inside and out, with clay tempered grass.

The windows were a foot square used for ventilation. Doors were of poplar planks covered with straps of shaved and wet buffalo hides, which tightened and strengthened when dry.

Inside the house were little more than stools, storage chests, and three-foot-high broad beds. The beds were made of boards and white-oak foundations and cane-splinter mattresses covered with bear, buffalo, mountain lion, elk and deerskins with fur/hair left on.

Opposite the front door of each dwelling was a small "sweathouse". Inside these sweathouses the fire was kept burning. These were used to purify themselves and to cure diseases.

In colder areas, each village had a large winter hothouse. The hothouse walls were daubed six or seven inches thick with clay and tempered grass. These hothouses were usually built on high ground or mounds and the floors were three or four feet lower than grade. These houses were windowless and lacked air and were hot, smoky, and dark.


(Southeastern woven-plastered walls, thatched roof house.)

wattle and daub

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

A building material consisting of interwoven rods and laths or twigs plastered with mud or clay, used especially in the construction of simple dwellings or as an infill between members of a timber-framed wall.


The Indians of the areas that later became known as VA, NC, SC, GA lived in rectangular gabled thatched houses (Wattle and Daub) or in some areas rectangular barrel-roofed houses (Long houses). In the area of the country that later became known as Florida, they lived in four sided pitch-roof houses (Chickees). Some tribes lived in more than one kind of shelter seasonably."Atlas of the North American Indian", Indian Lifeways, pages 50-51, Carl Waldman, illustrations by Molly Braun. Facts on File Publications, New York: 1985.

Wattle and Daub: A pole framework intertwined with branches and vines, and covered with mud plaster, found especially in the Southeast.

Long house: A gabled or vaulted framework, with a door at each end; with a variety of coverings, bark from various types of trees. This type of dwelling was unique to the Iroquois.

From "The Cherokee" by Theda Perdue:

The Cherokee lived in villages and some were several miles long along riverbanks. Each village had a council or town house and a plaza where all met to socialize, make decisions, or conduct ceremonies. These council houses were very large, circular, and sat on top of a mound.

The private houses lay outside of the council houses and plaza. In summer Cherokees lived in large, rectangular, clapboard houses. In winter they lived in their asi , winter, houses. These were smaller than the summerhouses, round, and wattle and daub structures with a hearth in the center, which was always burning. With no windows the asi was dark and smoky.

The Cherokee women furnished the houses. They crafted beds and seating from river cane, strips of maple and oak, and honeysuckle. They made dyes from bloodroot, butternut, walnut, and other plants so as to decorate the furniture and baskets.


From the internet: Tsalagi History *

"The Cherokee lived in mud huts similar to the picture during the 1700's. It was a very sophisticated style of home, made by standing logs on end and creating a latticework of twigs and sticks between the logs and then mixing the red clay with water and applying it to the framework. The wall was built up until it was about a foot thick. This type home was cool in summer and warm in winter, much like the stucco utilized in the Southwest. The roof was thatched with layers of branches, twigs, grasses and mud. A vent was created in the roof for smoke from the fire to escape. The windows were covered with a latticework of river cane strips. There were two types of cane, that which grew by the water's edge, called river cane and that which grew in the mountains, called mountain cane. A hut like this was used for the sweat lodge on a larger scale. It was used for meetings and to house the sick and elderly during the cold months. Another mud hut was often built beside the main house, and used to store or smoke food."

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