Benoit First Nation

Housing & Public Works Director Sephen Benoit

Tel: 709-757-9444

Historic Housing- Wigwam

Mi'kmaq called ourhomes wigwams. Its root word is "wikuom". Mi'kmaq made many uses for birch bark and it also made a good cover for their dwellings since it was waterproof and portable. When a family moved they took the birch bark sheets with them.

This basic conical shape dwelling could be assembled and quickly disassembled when moving from place to place-, as was the migratory nature of of our indigenous ancestors. Theywere easily put together in a couple hours. The structure of the wigwam involved at least five wood poles, lashed together at the top with split spruce root and spread out at the bottom. A hoop of moosewood was tied under the poles just down from the top to brace them. Shorter poles tied to the hoop all around provided supports for the birch bark cover. Birch bark sheets were laid over the poles like shingles, starting from the bottom and overlapping as they worked up the wigwam. Extra poles laid over the outside helped hold the birch bark down. The top was left open for fireplace smoke to escape. A separate bark collar covered the top in bad weather. The floor was lined with fir twigs, woven mats and animal furs and a large hide acted as a door cover. Wigwams were painted with figures of animals and birds. The largest conical wigwams housed 12-15 people; for bigger families a longer style with two fireplaces was built. There were basically two types: the smaller, conical-shaped style was used in the winter; and the larger, oblong variety during the warmer months.

Penwaaq Lnuk (Benoit First Nation)

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