Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/818

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
798
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF SOME INDIAN HOMES.

By R. W. SHUFELDT, M. D.

WHILE attached to a military expedition against the Sioux VV in Wyoming in 1877, I saw those Indians construct at the various camps we made what I take to be the most primitive form of house built by human hands. It was simply a shelter, or tepee as they called it, made with the green boughs cut from the cottonwood trees. Without any especial preparation of the ground, they implanted the cut ends of the limbs in two parallel rows about eight feet long and five feet apart. The tops were adroitly bent over the inclosed space and fastened together along the middle line, thus creating a semi-cylindrical shelter open at both ends. These tepees were merely intended for two or three men to sleep in, all the cooking and other arrangements being performed outside.

In permanent summer camps these tepees are built in a sub-hemispherical shape, the ground upon which they are erected being previously cleaned off, moderately scooped out, and the earth thus obtained banked around the in-stuck ends of the boughs on the inside of the structure. They are then trimmed up and properly covered outside with long prairie grass, so placed as to shed the rain. Often, too, they threw an old buffalo-hide over the top as an additional protection.

In 1886 I observed the Navajos in northwestern New Mexico building similar houses to the ones I have just described; but those Indians also build a more durable structure in their hogan — a conical house of logs plastered with mud, and with a door at the side. Navajos, too, are improving in their home-building, more especially where they have taken up their abode in the neighborhood of frontier military garrisons. All this I have explained in a paper read before the Anthropological Society of Washington (March 17, 1891), and which appeared in the Proceedings of the United States National Museum.[1]

Many other Indians build these temporary shelter-houses, and among them the Apaches of Arizona. In Fig. 1 of the present paper they are well shown as they are constructed by those Indians in a summer camp. Here they have protected the top by large pieces of old canvas, thus making one of them quite waterproof. Corbusier, in the September number of the American Antiquarian for 1886, well describes one of these shelters as erected by the Apache-Mojaves. He says: "They live in circular brush huts (u-wah') about five feet high, and from six to eight

  1. Shufeldt, R. W. The Evolution of House-building among the Navajo Indians. Vol. xv, pp. 279-282, Plates XLI-XLIII. Washington, 1892.