The sense of community valued among the Haudenosaunee nations is mirrored most perfectly in the long house. Long houses, sometimes called bark houses, were a distinctive form of communal housing.

The long cylindrical structures were built to accommodate large extended families often measuring up to 200 feet long and 18 feet wide. Built using saplings set calf-deep into the ground at three foot intervals, the frames extended 18 feet tall and curved at the top. Cord made from wood fibers bound thick sheaths of bark stripped from elm trees to be used as shingles for the walls and roof. Doors at either end were made from bark or hide.

The long houses were windowless save for smoke holes set in the roof at 20 foot intervals with bark or hide hatches which could be used to seal them during poor weather. While these holes supplied ventilation and light along the center of the roof, air quality was still often poor inside with some people suffering respiratory problems and eye ailments.

Whole extended clan families dwelled in these structures, all able to trace their descent to a common female ancestor. Living in compartment like structures within the house Haudenosaunee families shared common fire pits with the family in the compartment across from them. Long houses were separated into compartments by wood screens creating walls with a common doorway which opened to a corridor stretching the length of the longhouse. Individual compartments consisted of a low platform raised a foot off the ground and covered with reed or cornhusk mats and hides. This platform served as a bed for the entire family at night and sitting area during the day. Families could store supplies on an additional platform built at a level of seven feet. Special treasures were said to be tucked into dug outs underneath the sleeping platform.

It’s a common myth that all native people used teepees as their shelters. These types of dwellings were used mostly by the Plains nations who often migrated following the buffalo herds. Long houses were built for families who intended to stay in one place. Once a decade, a nation might decide to relocate once the farming land and resources in that particular area had been exhausted.

Hunters on an extended trip might use something called a “lead too” while on his voyage. This was simply pine boughs layered on the ground and a pine bough type rough to shelter them from the elements.