What Kind of Houses Did the Kwakiutl Build?

The Kwakiutl First Nations people lived in heavy timber framed houses during the winter and in structures made of light poles during the summer months. The split plank cladding was carried between the two locations during their seasonal moves. In the winter homes, the cladding was used for flooring and to cover the sides. In summer it was lashed over the pole framework.

Native to coastal British Columbia and the offshore islands, the Kwakiutl followed their food resources. The winter homes, which were permanent structures, were built near the salmon runs. These often housed more than one family and were part of a village settlement. The homes were set up to be convenient to the sea yet in an area that provided enough space for smoking and processing the fish. A large ceremonial or main gathering structure was also built.

The summer shelters were lightweight, made to be set up and torn down quickly. They were set up in short-term camps adjacent to seaweed and/or shellfish gathering spots. The Kwakiutl tended to be more nomadic during the summer.

The cedar tree provided most of the material for the houses. All parts were useful, from entire logs to build the permanent house structure to the bark that was shredded and then woven into blankets and clothing. Large trees were hollowed out and made into canoes, that carried the people and their belongings between their winter and summer homes.