Iroquoians around 1500

Life in a longhouse

Living with one’s extended family

Imagine living with your entire family: your parents, your brothers and sisters, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, and all their children. Don’t you think the house would be a little crowded? And yet, this was how the Iroquoian people lived. They lived in a longhouse with their mother’s family. There could be 25 to 60 people in a single house!

A house for sedentary people
How did they manage to all live together? Well, like the name says, it really was a long house. Plus, it could easily be expanded because it was made of wood and bark. It had two doors, one at each end, but no windows. Inside, each family had its own separate space. Since the Iroquoians were sedentary people, they built strong homes that lasted a long time. Unlike the Algonquians, who were nomadic people, the Iroquoians did not move their homes. When they built a longhouse somewhere, it was meant to stay there.

The division of the house

Here is how the house was divided: There was a central aisle that ran down the length of the house. This aisle had a series of fire pits that were used for cooking and staying warm. Above each fire pit was a smoke hole in the ceiling to let out the smoke. On both sides of the aisle were beds that looked like bunk beds. The top bunk was a shelf that was used as a storage space, although children sometimes slept up there, too. Bark walls separated each family’s space and each fire pit was shared by two families.


Did you know?

The Five Nations are called the Haudenosaunee, or the “People of the Longhouse.”

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social


Important concepts and big ideas:

[glossary slug=’clansystem’]
[glossary slug=’sedentary’]
[glossary slug=’habitation’]

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Teacher's Corner

Teacher resources to help cover the society of the Iroquoian people around 1500.