Dwellings, shelters and homes of the Plateau Indians
Most people lived in large, permanent villages during the winter, relying largely on stored food. The winter village was usually located in a lower valley near a river. From spring through fall, these large winter groups would break up into smaller groups that moved from place to place to fish, hunt, gather roots, and conduct other activities.
Before the late 18th century, Plateau winter villages consisted of a number of structures, including a sweat lodge, menstrual house, pregnancy house, and birthing house, a large communal ceremonial structure, and substantial semi-subterranean pithouses, covered with soil for insulation.
Summer houses, called longhouses, were lighter structures of tule (pronounced too-lee) matting over wood frames. Each longhouse usually housed an extended family.
The pit house most often consisted of a circular or squarish excavated pit protected by a conical roof of poles covered with brush and earth. Variation was found from area to area - the pit could be circular or square, the roof conical, pyramidical or almost flat, and the entrance either a hole (which also served as an exit for smoke) in the centre of the roof or a door at the side of the roof. Sometimes tunnels acted as entrances or connected several pit houses together. Although pit houses were most commonly used as winter dwellings, recent information suggests they were sometimes used at other times of the year.
Lodges covered with bark or mats of tule or grass were used throughout the Plateau. There were 3 main ground plans: rectangular, parallel sides with rounded ends, or rectangular with one end rounded. For winter use these lodges were banked around their bases with dirt and snow. One or more fires were positioned in the centre of the lodge.
To make a tule longhouse, they would dig a hole about 2 feet deep. They would then place the poles in the hole around the outside and tie the poles at the top. They would then put the mats on the bottom and tie them at the top. The poles made them about 4 feet tall. They would continue to put more mats on the poles. They would then tie this with wild hemp. These lodges were very movable, removable, and also provided a very good shelter.
In the summer they also lived in temporary brush houses before they aquired the horse.
During the winter, all the Plateau Indians of one village used the same outhouse. They made a path through snow to get there. In the spring, the outhouse pit was buried.
After they aquired the horse, the Plateau indians became even more mobile, and adapted to many of the habits of the Plains Indians, including hunting buffalo and adopting the tipi as a portable home.