Iroquoian village surrounded by a palisade

In regions where Iroquoian languages were spoken, from the Great Lakes to the area around Quebec City, the St. Lawrence Iroquoians established their villages along major waterways, choosing places with sandy soil and land that could be used for fields close by. For strategic and ecological reasons, these populations wanted their villages to be in an easily defended spot with well-drained soil.

Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


Longhouses of an iroquoian village

The village territory, which was occupied throughout the year, included gardens and cultivated fields. Iroquoian communities recognized two ways in which land could be owned: the gardens cultivated by women for their families' sustenance were privately owned, whereas the fields were communally owned by members of the same maternal line.

Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


A longhouse's wall, seen from the inside

For the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, the basic dwelling unit was the longhouse. A rectangular building with rounded corners, it was home to several families and could be as large as 40 metres long by six metres wide, with a height of four to six metres. Longhouses could be extended at either end to accommodate more people if necessary.

Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


Family life inside  longhouse

The interior of an Iroquoian longhouse was divided lengthwise by a central aisle with a series of hearths down the middle. Each hearth was generally used by two families. The number of hearths usually indicated the number of families living in the longhouse. A longhouse with the average five hearths could thus shelter up to ten families.

The longhouses of the St. Lawrence Iroquoians could lodge up to 50 people, or about 10 families, who shared its central aisle and hearths. During the winter months, the St. Lawrence Iroquoians carried out many of their daily activities within the longhouse walls. Under their parents’ supervision, children learned the various techniques that had to be mastered to make and use tools. The St. Lawrence Iroquoians made use of the diverse resources at their disposal to make clothing, hunting implements and pots for storing and cooking food.

Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.

© 2011, Centre d'interpétation du site archéologique Droulers/Tsiionhiakwatha.


Learning Objectives

-Understand the importance of choosing the right location for the construction of a village.
-Learn about a village’s planning and the activities that took place there.
-Appreciate a longhouse’s architecture.
-Visualize a longhouse’s interior planning.

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