What Was the Housing of the Ojibwa Indians?

Woodland-dwelling Ojibwa Indians built villages and lived in waginogans or wigwams. The more nomadic tribes that lived in the Great Plains built tipis out of buffalo hide, which they moved several times a year to be closer to food and water.

To make a wigwam, the Ojibwa bent peeled green ironwood saplings into arches, used basswood fiber to form the saplings into a circular or oval shape and threaded birch bark strips, cedar bark or cattail mat around the saplings. Wigwams had a door and a hole on top, which provided ventilation. The Ojibwa only took the birch bark strips or rush mats with them if they moved, leaving the underlying structure behind. Some families lived in peak-roof long lodges that had doors at both ends. During the spring and summer, most Ojibwa lived in villages, and during the late fall and winter, they lived in hunting camps.

By the end of the 19th century, the Ojibwa used other forms of tree bark, calico, cardboard and tar paper to build their wigwams. They also covered the doors with blankets. Many Ojibwa moved out of their wigwams and into one-room log or frame cabins or into tar paper shacks in the wake of the General Allotment Act of 1887. This act gave parcels of land to individuals rather than to tribes and encouraged individuals to build more permanent structures. Wigwams remained popular housing options through the 1930s for Ojibwa who lived in northern Ontario and Manitoba along inland rivers and lakes.