13 Science: Native American Dwellings

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Students will discuss the attributes of Native American dwellings.  They will consider the portability, temperature requirements, and size of the dwellings to determine if the builders intended to move them frequently, lived in a warm or cool climate, and if one or multiple families occupied the dwellings.


  • Craft sticks
  • Rubber bands
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Faux fur (encourage your students to be creative with the fur.  It could be used for the outside of their dwellings, inside as sleeping rugs or blankets….)
  • Construction paper


Please keep in mind that the dwellings do not have to be perfect, or even work for children to learn and think.  It is ok for students to build a two stick teepee and a bear rug or just a bear rug, or broken sticks might make a good campfire….

  • If you have the ability, please allow your students to view the above video.
  • Follow the instructions on the hand out sheet and circle or underline the dwellings while discussing them with your students.
  • Give the supplies to your students and ask them to create one of the dwellings.

Extra Background Information:

Some tribes were nomads. This meant that the entire village would travel from place to place. This was common for tribes living in the Great Plains where they hunted buffalo for food. The tribe would follow the large buffalo herds as they roamed the plains. These tribes built homes that were easy to move and build. They were called Teepees.

Other tribes lived in one place for a long time. This was because they had water and food nearby. These tribes built more permanent homes like the pueblo or longhouse.

Click here for more details on three main types of homes: the Teepee, Longhouse, and Pueblo.

Wigwam Home

Wigwams were homes built by the Algonquian tribes of American Indians living in the Northeast. They were built from trees and bark similar to the longhouse, but were much smaller and easier to construct.

Wigwams used poles from trees that would be bent and tied together to make a dome shaped home. The outside of the home would be covered with bark or other material that was available where the natives lived. The frames were not portable, like the teepee, but sometimes the coverings could be moved when the tribe moved.

Wigwams were relatively small homes that formed a circle around 15 feet wide. However, these homes still sometimes housed more than just one Native American family. It was a pretty tight squeeze, but probably helped keep them warm in the winter.

A home similar to the wigwam was the wikiup which was built by some tribes in the west.

Native American Hogan

The hogan was the home built by the Navajo people of the Southwest. They used wooden poles for the frame and then covered it in adobe, clay mixed with grass. It was generally built in a dome shape with the door facing the east toward the sunrise. There was also a hole in the roof for the smoke of the fire to escape.

Other Native American Homes

  • Plank house – Built by the natives in the Northwest near the coast, these homes were made from planks of a wood called cedar. Several families would live in a single home.
  • Igloo – Igloos were homes built by the Inuit in Alaska. Igloos are small domed homes made from blocks of ice. They were built to survive the cold winters.
  • Chickee – the chickee was a home built by the Seminole tribes. The chickee had a thatched roof to keep the rain off, but had open sides to keep cool in the hot weather of Florida.
  • Wattle and daub – This home was similar to the chickee, but had walls filled in using twigs and clay. It was built by tribes in the northern, slightly colder, area of the Southeast like the Cherokee in North Carolina.

Fun Facts about Native American Homes

  • The honored seat was generally facing the door. The man of the house or honored guest would sit in this position.
  • After the 1900s, the Navajo hogan home was often built using railroad ties.
  • A flap at the top of the wigwam could be opened or shut with a pole.
  • The Teepees of medicine men were often decorated with paintings.
  • The fire in an igloo was a large dish filled with animal oil which was burnt like a candle.

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