indigenous North American dwelling characteristic of peoples living in forested regions. It is constructed of saplings driven into the ground in a circle or oval and tied together at the top, then covered with mats of woven rushes or sewn bark. A typical wickiup was some 15–20 feet (4.5–6 metres) in diameter. By the early 21st century, wickiup had become the preferred term among many Native Americans because wigwam was believed to play into a stereotype.
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A wigwam or wickiup is a domed single-room dwelling used by certain Native American tribes. The term wickiup is generally used to label these kinds of dwellings in American Southwest and West. Wigwam is usually applied to these structures in the American Northeast. The use of these terms by non-Native Americans is somewhat arbitrary and can refer to many distinct types of Native American structures regardless of location or cultural group. The wigwam is not to be confused with the Native Plains tipi which has a very different construction, structure, and use.
The domed, round shelter is used by many different Native American cultures. The curved surfaces make it an ideal shelter for all kinds of conditions. It was as safe and warm as the best houses of early colonists.
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.
A typical wigwam in the Northeast has a curved surface which can hold up against the worst weather. The male of the family was responsible for the framing of the wigwam. Young green tree saplings, of just about any type of wood, about ten to fifteen feet long were cut down. These tree saplings were then bent by stretching the wood. While these saplings were being bent, a circle was drawn into 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 was 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.
Mary Rowlandson uses the term Wigwam in reference to the dwelling places of the Native Americans that she stayed with while in their captivity during King Philip's War in 1675. The term wigwam has remained in common English usage as a synonym for any "Indian house", however this usage is incorrect as there is knowledgable differences between the wigwam and the tipi within the Native American community.
Below is a description of Chiricahua wickiups recorded by anthropologist Morris Opler:
These terms are possible Native American sources of the current terms (the Proto-Algonquian term was *wi·kiwa·Hmi)—
wickiup (perhaps a variant of wikiwam without the possessive theme suffix -m combined with ap(i) "sit"):