Elder Tom Charles prays in the Mohawk long house in Kanata Village - The Other Side TV

Extra research for Season 4 – Episode 2 – The Long House

The Longhouse or hodensote is long narrow house covered in rectangular slabs of birch or elm bark and built by the Iroquois, which included the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca people. They were called Iroquois but they called themselves Haudenosaunee, which meant “people who live in the longhouse.”


The building of a longhouse depended on the materials at hand and could take 1 to 2 years to construct. Longhouses were longer than they were wide with the average longhouse 60 feet long by 16 feet wide by 15 feet high. With complete families living in the longhouse (mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and their children) the longhouse could be expanded as the families grew.


There were no windows and it had doors on each end typically covered with animal skins to keep the animals out as well as inclement weather and cold air during the winters.  Along the central aisle each family had a fire pit which was used for heating, cooking, and light.  In the ceiling were small holes to release the fire smoke and small vents were dug into the ground under the walls that fed the fires and also helped in getting the smoke out.  Each side of the longhouse was divided into chambers about 18 to 20 feet square with a wooden platform.  With two families per chamber, twenty families could possibly live in the longhouse.


Running the full length of the chamber was a storage area and a raised platform for sleeping.  Equipment and provisions could be stored either above the family’s chamber or in compartments on each side.  Storage pits dug into the ground were lined with bark and grass with a bark mat lid and used to store food. Dried food was hung from the rafters.


— Joanne Schiavoni

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