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Native Americans: Special Homes

What you have to remember is that there were many different cultures in Native American society and these cultures lived in many different environments. Not all Native Americans lived in Tipis! These simple craft instructions show how to build six different, basic models of Native American homes.

The Wickiup was the special type of home used by Plains Native Americans that lived in the dessert. It is a cone-shaped or dome-shaped structure built on a framework of saplings and covered with bark, brush, dirt, or animals skins. The was was approximately eight to fifteen feet in diameter and about seven fit tall in the center. The doorway was uncovered and there was also a hole in the center of the roof so that smoke from the firplace could escape.

Picture of an authentic Wickiup

For this craft you will need:
a large margarine or whipped topping container
brown paint that has been diluted a little bit
Masking tape
Paint brush


1. Cut a door opening in the container so that the bottom of the door (what would be the ground) is the open edge of the container.

2. Cut a circular opening in the top of the container (simulates the smoke hole).

3. Cut your masking tape into half inch pieces.

4. Use the tape to cover the outside of the container, overlapping pieces. Continue until the entire outside of the container is covered.

5. Use your paint to "wash" the masking tape with brown color.

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Hogans were kinds of homes used by the Navajos. It is a six-sided structure built from horizontally laid logs that were sometimes covered with packed earth. It has a domed roof that has a hole in the center for smoke to escape from and it has one doorway that traditionally faced east. In winter the doorways would be covered with blankets to keep out the cold.

Picture of an authentic Navajo hogan

For this craft you will need:
9-inch by 9-inchy piece of tag board that is brown or has been painted brown
60 craft/popsicle sticks


1. Break three of the popsicle sticks into half-inch pieces.

2. Arrange six sticks in a hexagonal shape that is about eight inches in diameter, leaving a small opening for the door on one side, and overlapping a little on each end of the popsicle sticks. Glue a small stick piece to bottom edge of one stick nearest "door" opening.

3. Begin building the hogan walls by adding layers of sticks, working in a circular pattern. Continue until walls are seven sticks high. Use the small broken pieces as fillers to keep the layers level at the door opening.

4. To form the roof. Cut a circle from the brown tag board. Cut a slit to the center of the circle and then cut a circle that is about 2 1/2 inches in diameter out of the very center of the brown circle. Overlap the edges to make a round dome, leaving the small circle open on top.

5. Glue roof to base.

To decorate it further you could add dried weeds to simulate bushes, etc.

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The tipi is probably the best known style of Native American homes. It was a portable home used by namadic tribes of the Plains such as the Comanche and the Sioux. Tipis were cone-shaped, built around a tripod type structure of poles covered with animals skins. Tipis were usually about ten to twelve feet tall and some were decorated with symbols depicting significant tribal events. The fireplace was in the center of the floor, with ta hole in the top of the topi to allow the smoke to escape.

Picture of handmade tipi

For this craft you will need:
6 inch margarine tub lid
7-inch x 16-inch rectangle of brown paper
6-inch length of string
6 popsicle sticks


1. Place the lid on a flat working surface with the "lip" part facing up. Tape to the working surface to secure it while working.

2. Place the popsicle sticks vertically against the lip at three inch intervals. Tape temporarily to hold. Lean sticks to the center until they meet. Use the string to lack the sticks together at the top, leaving about half an inch of sticks extending above the string.

3. Use crayons or colored pencils to draw designs on the brown paper. Wet the paper completely ... do not soak ... and crumple. Open it back up.

4. While paper is still wet, mold around your stick framework, leaving space between two sticks as a doorway. Wrap the paper under the lid if there is any hanging over the edge.

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The longhouse was a kind of house used by the Iroquois. It was a rectangular structure built on a framework of poles and covered with planking or overlapped shingles of bark. The roofs could be domed or peaked. The longhouse was called a longhouse because is was usually about 60 feet long only about 18 feet wide. It had one hallway down its centers with rooms off each side with individual families lived. Families shared fireplaces.

A traditional Iroquois longhouse

For this craft you will need:
One 12-inch by 14-inch piece of brown tag board
One 7-inch by 12-inch piece of brown tag board
Two 6-inch by 7-inch pieces of brown tag board
8 strips of brown crepe paper, 2-inches by 12-inches


1. Fold the edges of the 7-inch by 12-inch piece of tag board up about 1/2-inch on the long sides to make the base. Put glue on the outside edges of the upward fold.

2. Bend the 12-inch by 14-inch piece of tag board and glue it to the base to make the domed roof of the long house.

3. Cut the 6-inch by 7-inch so that they fit as the ends of the longhouse walls, cutting the outside edge 1/2-inch larger than needed. Along the curved edge, clip the edges 1/2-inch every inch or so. Fold these clipped pieces back and use this edge to glue the "wall" to the inside of the house.

4. Cover the outside of the longhouse with the crepe paper, overlapping it so that it simulates bark.

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A chickee is a kind of house used by Southeastern tribes such as the Seminoles. This Native American tribes depended on river life, so their homes were often constructed on or very near to swampy land. As protection against rising water levels, the chickee was built on poles with the floor platform above ground level. The roof was often of plam fronds and the homes had no side walls. Cooking was done in a separate building hut shared by several families.

Authentic Seminole Chickee

For this craft you will need:
8-inch by 12-inch piece of brown tag board
6-inch by 8-inch piece of brown tag board
48 pieces of 1-inch by 2-inch green construction paper
8 drinking straws
hole punch


1. Use the hole punch to punch holes in the corners of the 6-inch by 8-inch piece of tag board. Then punch holes mid-way between each corner. You should have a total of 8 holes.

2. Cut six straws to the length of 5 1/2 inches. Make a mark at 1 1/2 inches from one end of all six straws.

3. Insert cut straws through the side holes of tag board to the mark. Secure it in place underneath with tape. Insert the two remaining long straws in the two end holes opposite each other and secure with tape. These long straws help create a "peak" in the roof. Pinch the top of the long straws closed.

4. Fold remaining tag board rectangle in half lengthwise and glue to straws to form roof.

5. Make slashes in each of the construction paper rectangles to simulate palm fronds. Attach to roof like you would shingles. You should have eight each row with three overlapping rows per side of the roof.

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The pueblo style home was like an apartment complex and was built by Southwestern Native Americans. It was constructed of bricks made from adobe.

View the remains of a Anasazi Pueblo Ruins

For this craft you will need:
3 boxes without lids in graduated sizes
brown tempra paint
4 popsicle sticks
8 toothpicks
masking tape
paint brush


1. Cut a door opening in each of the three boxes.

2. Paint the outside of each box.

3. When the paint dries, stack boxes and secure them with tape. Paint the tape to hide it.

4. Make ladders using the popsicle sticks and toothpicks and glue. Place the ladders on the two bottom levels of the pueblo.


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