A wigwam, wickiup or wetu is a domed dwelling formerly used by certain
Native American and
1.1 Wickiups of the West
2 "Wigwam" in different Algonquian languages 3 Use of similar dwellings elsewhere today 4 See also 5 References 6 Bibliography 7 External links
The domed, round shelter was used by numerous Native American cultures. The curved surfaces make it an ideal shelter for all kinds of conditions. These structures are formed with a frame of arched poles, most often wooden, which are covered with some sort of roofing material. Details of construction vary with the culture and local availability of materials. Some of the roofing materials used include grass, brush, bark, rushes, mats, reeds, hides or cloth. Men built the wigwams and the women put on the coverings.
Dakota-style tipis and
Wigwams were most often seasonal structures although the term is
applied to rounded and conical structures built by Native American
groups that were more permanent. Wigwams usually take longer to put up
than tipis and their frames are usually not portable like a tipi.
A typical wigwam in the Northeast had a curved surface which can hold
up against the worst weather. Young green tree saplings of just about
any type of wood, ten to fifteen feet long, were cut down and bent.
While the saplings were being bent, a circle was drawn on the ground.
The diameter of the circle varied from ten to sixteen feet. The bent
saplings were then placed over the drawn circle, using the tallest
saplings in the middle and the shorter ones on the outside. The
saplings formed arches all in one direction on the circle. The next
set of saplings were used to wrap around the wigwam to give the
shelter support. When the two sets of saplings were finally tied
together, the sides and roof were placed on it. The sides of the
wigwam were usually bark stripped from trees. The male of the family
was responsible for the framing of the wigwam.
The home in which the family lives is made by the men and is ordinarily a circular, dome-shaped brush dwelling, with the floor at ground level. It is eight feet high at the center and approximately seven feet in diameter. To build it, long fresh poles of oak or willow are driven into the ground or placed in holes made with a digging stick. These poles, which form the framework, are arranged at one-foot intervals and are bound together at the top with yucca-leaf strands. Over them a thatching of bundles of big bluestem grass or bear grass is tied, shingle style, with yucca strings. A smoke hole opens above a central fireplace. A hide, suspended at the entrance, is fixed on a cross-beam so that it may be swung forward or backward. The doorway may face in any direction. For waterproofing, pieces of hide are thrown over the outer hatching, and in rainy weather, if a fire is not needed, even the smoke hole is covered. In warm, dry weather much of the outer roofing HI is stripped off. It takes approximately three days to erect a sturdy dwelling of this type. These houses are "warm and comfortable even though there is a big snow." The interior is lined with brush and grass beds over which robes are spread.... 
The woman not only makes the furnishings of the home but is
responsible for the construction, maintenance, and repair of the
dwelling itself and for the arrangement of everything in it. She
provides the grass and brush beds and replaces them when they become
too old and dry.... However, formerly "they had no permanent homes, so
they didn't bother with cleaning." The dome-shaped dwelling or
wickiup, the usual home type for all the
Both the teepee and the oval-shaped house were used when I was a boy. The oval hut was covered with hide and was the best house. The more well-to-do had this kind. The teepee type was just made of brush. It had a place for a fire in the center. It was just thrown together. Both types were common even before my time....
A house form that departed from the more common dome-shaped variety is
recorded for the Southern
When we settled down, we used the wickiup; when we were moving around a great deal, we used this other kind...
Illustration of an
frame of Crow sweat lodge in snow
"Wigwam" in different Algonquian languages The English word wigwam derives from Eastern Abenaki wigwom, from Proto-Algonquian *wi·kiwa·ʔmi. Other Algonquian languages have similar names for the structure:
wigwôm in Abenaki wiigiwaam in the Anishinaabe language
wiigiwaam with vowel syncope in Eastern
ookóówa in the
wiikiyaapi in Fox mekewāp in Cree (with the indefinite prefix m- instead of the definite third-person prefix w-) mīciwāhp in Montagnais (with the indefinite prefix m- instead of the definite third-person prefix w-) wikiop in Menominee wekeab in Saki
Use of similar dwellings elsewhere today
Somali Aqal lodge
Near identical constructions, called aqal, are used by today's nomadic
Sweat lodge—a ceremonial sauna that is often built in the wigwam
Tipi—another type of Native American dwelling
Indigenous peoples of North America portal Home portal
^ For a complete description, see "We are now ... properly ...
enwigwamed." British Soldiers and Brush Huts, 1776–1781, John U.
Rees, 2003 (originally published in the Military Collector &
Historian, volume 55, number 2 (Summer 2003), 89-96.
^ Opler: 22–23
^ Opler: 385386
Opler, Morris E. (1941). An
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Wigwam". Encyclopædia Britannica.
28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 629.
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