Please email or share this article!

Native American Homes & Dwellings

The type of dwelling a Native American tribe used as shelter depended on where in the continent they lived.

They used whatever was in abundance; it could be trees, caves, hides, clay, or vegetation. The tribes were very dependent on the environment where they lived.

Apache Wickiup Edward Curtis 1903


Many tribes were nomads. These tribes followed the herds of animals across the plains. They hunted the animals for food and used the hides for clothing and shelter.

Because they were nomads, they needed housing that could be packed up and taken with them. These were teepees and wigwams.

Ribs Of Apache Wickiup

Teepees are poles tied together near the top and the bottoms were spread out so the structure could stand up on its own. Hides were tied to the poles to form walls and an entrance way.

The area at the very top of the teepee was left open so that when they made a fire inside, the smoke would rise to the top and escape into the air.

Dakota Style Tipis And Ojibwe Wigwam White Earth Minnesota 1928


The wigwam was built of bendable poles or saplings. The large ends were anchored into the earth and the sapling was bent to form a dome.

The many bent saplings were then tied together to stay in place and hides were used to make a covering.

An Oglala Lakota Tipi 1891

Wigwams were not as easily moved but the hides could be removed and used again wherever the tribe decided to make a new camp.

Tribes in the western part of the continent called these homes wikiups.

Tipis Painted By George Catlin In The 1830s

Adobe Homes

In the southwest part of North America, the tribes had access to clay. They mixed the clay with water and grass to make a kind of stucco.

Related: United States facts

They used this material to cover wooden poles set close together to form walls and a roof. In later years, they used this same material to make adobe bricks.

They would form the adobe into block shapes and set them out in the sun to dry.

South Pueblo Taos Indian Pueblo New Mexico

Other Types of Dwellings

Igloo These homes were found in the Arctic regions and were built from blocks of hard-packed snow.

The igloo was shelter during the winter. In summer, the tribes were nomads and used whatever trees and saplings they could find and fur hides to build a shelter.

Igloo Inner

Plank Houses Cedar trees grew in the NW coastal areas and they were easy to carve and split into planks.

The planks were then used to build walls and a roof for a dwelling for multiple families.

Replica House

Chickee – These homes were built by the tribes in places that were warm all year.

These homes had no walls but had a roof made of poles and whatever they could find for thatching, such as grasses and leaves.



  1. What did the type of home the Native Americans built depend on?
  2. Why were teepees and wigwams a choice for some tribes?
  3. What was used for the walls and to protect the dwellers inside from the weather?
  4. What is adobe?
  5. What is an igloo?



  1. The Native Americans built homes or shelter according to the environment and what was available.
  2. Teepees and wigwams were easy to take apart and rebuild at another location when they decided to move.
  3. The Native Americans that used teepees and wigwams used fur hides tied over the poles to protect them from the weather.
  4. Adobe is clay mixed with water and grass and was used like stucco.
  5. An igloo is a winter shelter in the Arctic regions and is made of blocks of hard-packed snow.

Native Americans

Three Native American Women In Warm Springs Indian Reservation Wasco County Oregon 1902

Leave a Comment