Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Wood working methods
 Design characteristics
 The Traditional House of the Northwest...
 Laying out the Plan of the...
 Erecting House Structures

Title: Heavy timber dwellings of the Northwest aboriginal cultures of North America
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00099628/00001
 Material Information
Title: Heavy timber dwellings of the Northwest aboriginal cultures of North America
Physical Description: 32p.
Language: English
Creator: Manning, Raymond
Publisher: Raymond Manning
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Copyright Date: 1977
Subject: Historic preservation
General Note: AFA HP document 456
General Note: Completed for UF course AE675
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00099628
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Table of Contents
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Wood working methods
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
    Design characteristics
        Page 14
        Page 15
    The Traditional House of the Northwest Coast Cultures
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
    Laying out the Plan of the House
        Page 29
        Page 30
    Erecting House Structures
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
Full Text


Ray Manning
Winter Quarter
AE 675
Inst. Phillip Wisely


The people of the Northwest Coast were noted
for their advanced state of culture when it was
compared'to other aboriginal cultures of North
America. A thin strip of land from Northerh Calif-
ornia to Southern Alaska.comprised the home of
these people. This area was rich in timber and
food supplies which had a very strong effect on
the development of this culture.
One of the notable developments was the
heavy timber dwelling which was almost universally
used in this area.
The large easily accessible food supply from
the ocean allowed the people to remain in one
location instead of moving about in the search
for food. This stationary attitude gave the incen-
tive to devise a more permanent structure then
that which is usually associated with the North
American aboriginal cultures.
Large forest in the area with easily worked
wood coupled with the more permanent dwelling
location and a people with abundant liesure time
gave way to the development of the heavy timber
house of this area.
This report will show how and why the timber
house was developed from this culture. A descrip--
tion of the dwellings used by the various tribes
that make up the culture of this area will show
how nature worked with the inhabitants towards
this development.


I. ', Culture
II. Wood of The Area
III. Tools
IV. Wood Working Methods
V. Design Characterists
VI. The Traditional House
A. Northern Type
B. Wakashan Type
C, Shed Roof Type
D. Oregon Coast Type
E. Three-Pitch Roof Type
a. Sweathouses
VII. Laying Out House Plan
IX. Erecting House Structures
X. Bibliography


A. Two unique elements of the inhabitants of this
area where to make them notable.
1. Remarkable native culture developed with very
little outside help. Instead of prii.itive
people affected by contact with a far morph ad-
vanced society, this group took over primitive
elements and advanced on their own.
2. Close proximitylto.the sea and its great abund-
ance of food led to more leisure time and a
non-nomadic attitude. As a result of this
people had more creativity and inventiveness.
B. Land conditions that were to directly effect im-
1. These inhabitants were located on the north
west coast of North America and East of the
Cascade Mountains.
2. They were surrounded by forest of evergreens,
focusing in red cedar and redwood,
3. Similar climate and geological condition
to that of Norway in Europe.
a. Rugged coast line lead to strong tribe
b. Surprisingly stable climate for the
far North latitude the area was located in.
1. This was due to the warm Japanese
2. Land terrian aided in stablizing
C. Development of People
1. The close proximity to the sea developed a
culture that was to have a close association
with the water that played a key role in
thier lives.

a. Being close to the sea meant a large food
supply was readily available.
b. Since there was no need to move to locate
food this lead to an easy life style.
c. Mastered techniques of fishing and trap-
ping salmon which was to become a large
part of their diet.
1. Some of the techniques used were;
nets, traps, spearing, bow and arrow
and clubbing.
2. These techniques were also used for
other fish and for sea mammals, al-
though not as widely.
d. They developed techniques which allowed
the preservation of food stuffs for
reasonable lengths of time.
1. This lead to family that was less
likely to move about.
2. This allowed the development of
more permanent structures.
e. The great abundance of easily worked
wood lead to fine craftsman whom exhib-
ited a high degree of artistic work.
D. Key Social Developments
1. Unlike other American indians, the cultures
of the Northwest Coast evolved an aristocracy.
a. Classes of the cultures most widely used.
1. The highest class was the chiefs whom
were required to be royal blood.
2. Members of nobility which was the
privileged class were under the chiefs
3. Common people made up the third class.
4. Slaves, captives and their offspring
were to represent the lowest class.

b. The privileges of the chiefs were the
results of birth right.
1. Control of wealth and social rank
were equated with the right to rule.
2. Had the privileges of the best fishing
3. Exclusive rights to practice certain
crafts reserved for nobility.

E. Social Ritual of Potlatch
1. A ceremony of feasting and gift giving that
took many forms, but its purpose and nature
were always the same which was to show social
a. A display of wealth and status that gen-
erated a lavish and prestigious affair.
b. Given to mark birthdays, adoptions and
c. To impress someone in particular or as
to say right people.
d. Demonstrate beyond a question the hosts
wealth and station of life.
e. Sometimes held to save face after embar-
rassing failures or disappointments.
F. Level of Craftsmanship
Products of Northwest carpentry were dis-
tinguished by neatness of finish among the
Northern Indian cultures of North America.
The finelelaborately carvings.and painted
decorations were accomplished with rather
crude and limited tools.

A. Woods that was principally used for dwellings,
were red cedar in the North and redwood in the
1. Easily split into wide straight planks,
because of the easily opened cleavage planes.
2. The wood was soft and tractable which made it
easy to work with native tools.
B. Wood used for small carvings was usually yellow
cedaf and alder, because it was easily carved
and did not have cleavage lines.
C. Readily available wood not commonly used was
Douglas fir, true firs, spruce and hemlock.
1. These varieties made up the major portion of
area timber.
2. They were to difficult to handle with native
tools due to their common trait of being
tough and cross fibered.

The natives possessed a wide variety of tools which led
to their high degree of wood working development.
A. Adzes
1. A relatively long handled implement with a
blade set at an angle to the axis of the
wooden shaft.
2. A maul is used as the driving device.
3. This is used by the natives in place of axes
and saws, which they did not have.
4. Two types of adzes commonly used:
a. Heavy adze was used for large work', such
as felling trees and planning large sur-
b. Light adzes for fine work, such as fin-
ishing up work after using heavy adzes.
1. Often used beaver incisor as blade,
due to its naturally keen edge.
2. Three main types of light adzes were
used with some overlapping of differ-
ent tribe usage.
a. Elbow-adze
1. Used mostly by Northern Tungits
to Southern Kwakiutls.
2. Cutting blade was lashed to a
"T" shaped wooden handle.
b. "D" adze
1. Saw wide spread use in central
region by Southern Kwakiutls
and Nootkas down Washington
2. Used "D" shaped handle of wood
or whalebone.
c. Straight adze
1. Popular in area south of Col-
umbia River.

2. Resembled chisel with a
slightly curved handle.
B.. Cutting Blades
Cutting blades for adzes and other tools were foun
in immediate area. A great variety of blade types
were used such as: elkhorn, bone, strong shell
deepwaterr clam), beaver incisors (ground down
occasionally), tough-grained igneous rock (a form
of jadeite) and occasionally pieces of iron.
C. Chisels
1. Usually made of tough stone nephritee), elk-
horn, and the dense shell of deep water clams.
2. The blade was mounted in a hardwood shaft that
was driven by a unhafted pear shaped maul.
3. This tool along with adzes was to take the
place of saws and axes which the natives did
not have.
D. Mauls (Hammering device)
1. Commonly used to drive adzes, chisels and
2. There were two types commonly used.
a. The unhafted (not mounted) maul was the
most common used of the two types, with
almost exclusive use in the southern areas
b. Mounted mauls were not as widely used as
the unhafted type.
1. The stone head was mounted on a long
wooden handle which was used with a fu
two handed stroke.
2. Saw use in the Northern tribes such as
Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Bella Cobla
and Heiltsuk.
E. Wedges
Wedges were a widely used tool for splitting plank
when driven by a maul.
1. They had different degrees of taper and some

with one flat and one curved surface to allow
control of the direction of clevage.
2. Most commonly made of hardwoods such as Yew
a. Grommets of tough spruce root wrapped
around butt ends to prevent splitting.
b. A few of the Northern tribes of California
and their immediate neighbors used elk-
horns for wedges.
F. Drills
Drills were used to produce holes for joining of
wood by means of dowels and a style of sewing.
1. Consisted of a bit of a hard material mounted
in a straight wooden shaft.
2. User rotated shaft between his palms to drill
G. Sanding Material
Sanding material was used to remove adze marks
and to produce a smooth finish.
1. Fine sandstone and scouring rushes were used
first for roughage removal.
2. Sharkskin (Dog fish) was used for final smo-


A. Quality
1. Developed to an extent unrivaled elsewhere in
native North America.
2. Characteristic of area culture
a. Excellent workmanship was exhibited in
articles manufactured from wood.
b. Within limits of functional design there
was symmetry of form.
c. Corners were squared although they did not
have the benefit of a tri-square.
3. Surfaces were carefully smoothed and polished
far beyond utilitarian needs and very often
B. Felling Trees
1. Giant red cedar and other trees felled by
laboriously chipping away with adzes and chisels
around the trunk.
a. Adzes and chisels driven by hafted mauls and
to the south unhafted.
b. Adzes and chisels were primarily tools for
felling trees because they did not have saws
or axes.
c. Occasionally fire was used for tree felling,
but not often due to the difficulty of
controlling burning of green wood.
C. Planks made from split logs
1. Planks were split from logs into a series of
thin boards by sets of wedges driven up along
the grain of the wood.
2. Two methods of producing planks
a. Planks cut from standing trees
1. Tree was cut at two places to produce
plank of desired length.

2. Wedges were driven into the trunk,
between cuts to split off desired
3. A log was sometimes placed in the split
to allow wind effects and tree movement
to split off the plank.
b. Planks from fallen trees
1. More commonly used method.
2. Procedure for cutting off planks
a. Desired cut line marked with mark-
ing wedge.
b. A set of seven yew wood wedges were
driven along this line.
c. Wedges were of increasing length and
so placed that shortest is nearest
working man and all can be reached
by him in order without changing
his position.
d. As wood begins to split-spreaking
sticks were inserted.
e. Throughout process care is taken
to keep splitting surface on a
plane by regulating the stresses in
wood with ballasting or support.
3. Longer surface of plank is split off in
same manner.
D. Finishing of wood
1. Roof Beams
a. Tremendous logs, often two to three feet in
diameter and 50 to 100 feet in length.
b. Detailing of portions that were not decorated
with intricate carving.
1. Trimmed to uniform diameter.
2. Final adzing done to leave as marks in
rows, resembles fluting the length of

3. This produces an aesthetically pleasing
c. Wood surface finishing
1. Surface of rough pplit planks was finished
off with large hand adz,these adzing lines
left a delicate pattern in the surface
2. Additional smoothing can be done with a
light adze, this is to produce a flat
or curved surface or decorative fluting.
3. To attain a perfectly smooth surface adze
marks are rubbed off with a polishing
material such as limestone or shark skin.


A. Wood work of this area exhibited a culture that
had developed the manufacture of wood products
to a fine art.
1. Within the limits of functional design they
strived for symmetry of form.
2. Corners were accurately squared even though
these craftsmen did not have the benefit of
any device for measuring accuracy.
3. Surfaces were carefully smoothed and polished
far beyond utilitarian needs and were often
decorated beyond normal extents. An example
are the beams decorated by some of the North-
ern tribes, which once in place within the
structure were almost hidden from view, but
exhibited a high degree of decoration.
B. Design Styles
1. Two main styles were commonly used, one being
a simple and pure art while the other was a
expression of formal decorative schemes.
a. Pure and simple applied art dealt with
realistic images with interpretation
striving to deplict accurate figures
within the knowledge of the workmen.
b. Stylized and represental art used was
in a high state of abstraction. This
form saw a much greater use than the
pure art style which limited forms.
1. A common practice was to split the
figure of an animal in half, showing
both profiles at the same time.
2. The head or just the body may be
split in a similar fashion to form
a variation of the above practice..

3. Abstraction may be to the point that
the the animal can only be easily ident-
ified by a peculiar beak, tooth
formation or other distinguishing
C. Design Characteristics
1. Central portion of design is usually occupied
by figures head.
2. Strong use of applied symbolic style in house
painting and house posts.
3. Commonly followed mythological concepts.
D. Figure Relations
1. Simple figures used in totem poles and
designs were in two forms either interlocking
or separated.
a. House post of the Southern tribes had
figures placed one on top of another,
but remain separate. This is thought to
be the result of horizontal overlap inE
siding boards, that did hot allow a
smooth continuous painting surface.
This caused separation of the figures
on house paintings which was carried
over to the figures of totem poles.


Traditionally the.house was a rectangular plank struct-
ure with heavy post and roof beams. These were uni-
versally used at winter villages and other important
A. Several varients of the basic pattern were used,
each with definite geographical distributions
and with only a minor degree of overlapping styles.
B. 'Deviation from.,the main single form is suggested
by a number of distinctive features shared by
two or more sub-types.
1. Double ridge pole.
2. Carved posts and roof timber.
3. Walls separate from the roof supports.
4. Gabled, shed or flat roofs.
5. Central pits.
6. MUlti-family occupancy.
7. Basic outline and material.
C. Overlapping of house varients to main type of
1. On the basis of overlapping distribution ef
these features it seems reasonable to assume
that the varients of the rectangular plank
house represented local modifications of a
single ancestral plan.
2. Regardless of which basic house type was
used,the Northwest cultures had sufficient
mechanical ingenuity to adapt their dwelling
to any peculiar local needs.
D. The construction processes for the dwellings
among the different tribes were nearly all
basicly the same.
1. Mortise and tendon connections were used
almost exclusively for the jointing of
the heavy timbers.
2. Construction processes will be discussed later.

Tliigit, Tsimshian and Haida used this type
of structure which was a large rectangular
gable roofed house of massive timbers of
red cedar. Their average size was 50 by
55 feet.
1. Four square corner post were slotted
to recieve plates or side beams.
2. Corner post also supported paired plates
that formed low gables front and rear.
3. Subsidary post usually elaborately carved,
supported typical double ridge poles.
4. Often other post and beams divided the
span between the paired ridge posts and
side plates.
5. Sills were mortised into the bases of
corner post at front and sides.
a. Upper sill faces and undersides of
roof plates had matching slots.
b. Vertical planks were fitted into
these slots to form the walls.
6. Roofing consisted of double rows of over-
lapping planks on a low pitch.
7. The houses had a deep central pit approx-
imately five feet deep and thirty feet
a. The pit was dug a short'distance
inside the walls.
b. Where women cooked at a central
fireplace, people ate and lounged.
c. One or more steps lead into the pit.
1. Tradition tells of houses of
renowned chiefs that had a series
of four or five benchs or steps.

8. Sleeping compartments were inside the
structure for important families.
a. These were small cubicles built of
planks which were miniatures even
to their gabled roofs of the house.
b. They were located at the back of the
1. Sometimes on a bench at ground
2. Most of the time on the space
between the pit and the wall.
c. 3. Front of house-chiefs compartment
was sometimes painted with elab-
orate designs.
9. Doorway was in the gable end facing the
a. The hole was cut through the large
center post of the house.
b. Often in the shape of a rectangle
or oval.
A-1. Tlingit
1. Tlingit had a varient of the above in
the form of houses built on very narrow
strips of beach in steep inland fjord.
a. These were piling dwellers who
built houses on pile foundations.
b. Built partly or entirely over water.
2. Summer house of different material than
ordinary seen.
a. Houses were earth on the outside
and lined with wood on the inside.
b. Plank siding was fastened to a
total of twelve poles driven in
the ground.
c. Roof was covered with large slabs
of.fir bark with a square smoke hole

A-2.- Haida
1. The Haida had the distinctive feature of
using elaborately carved exterior post
that extended high above the roof. It
was set in front of the house and had
a gapping hole in the mouth of one of
the crest figures which formed the entry.
This was also used among the Tsimshian
tribes but not to the extent it was used
by the Haidas.
2. Unlike other houses in this area they
had no distinguishable sleeping area,
like the common bed platform.
3. They had a more uniformed size and style
among their houses than the other groups
of this area.
a. The houses were 45 to 50 feet wide
and 25 feet deep.
b. 6 to 10 inch posts were used along the
front wall.
c. The planks were IO inches wide.
d. There was very little roof slope.
e. The roofs were IO to 12 highttat
f. Small windows were placed in the
side walls.
g. Partition walls were 6 to 8 feet
high between family.

A-3. Tsimshian.
1. Another modification of the File dwelling
included raising the house above high
tide level on a cribwork foundation of
logs and poles.
'2. Large portal-'pol6s (house poles) were
ocassionally used at the front of the house.

a. Some were tall shafts of red cedar
deplicting the inhabitants major
ancestral crests.
b. The gapping mouth of the lower-
most figure f6rmed the doorway.
c. Tsimshian portal poles were not
as widely used as those of the


This area is just South of the fat Northern group-
of tribes and consists of the Kwakiutl, Bella Coola,
Nootka and Coast Tsimshain tribes.
1. These houses were constructed with a struct-
urallydifferent plan then those to the North.
The walls were structurally separatefrom the
rest of the framework whose function was to
support the roof.
a. Massive house frames consisted of four
huge corner posts which formed a rectangle
20 feet or more wide and 50 to 100 feet
b. Double or single ridgepoles were supported
at either end by pairs of posts with cross
c. Ridgepoles raised the centerline of the
roof and gave a slight pitch from the
center to the eaves.
1. Over this a secondary set of beams
and rafters of large poles was set
to support the roof. Withe lashed."
a. Roof planks of Red Cedar from ohe
to five feet in width were laid
over this frame work. Usually the
length of these planks was two
b. Some tribes left roof boards loose
so they could be moved to control
rain and smoke.
c. The roof slope was so low some
early sources described the houses
as flat roofed.

d. The siding of these houses was erected
separately from the roof supporting struct-
ure. It was only secondarily tied into the
1. Pairs of poles were set just outside
the corner post which held a roof
2. Siding was planks of Red Cedar slung
on withes looped between pairs of
vertical stakes.driven in the ground.
Sa. The Nootkan's set their siding
planks horizontally resting
edge on edge,
b. Most tribes overlapped their siding
to make better weather seal but
it gave a poor surface to be paint-
ed on.
3. This siding while not very stable and
not contributing to roof support was
easy to dismantle and reassemble.
4. Siding surrounded the basic framework
and floor area like a fence.
5. These houses were well adapted to a
custom of their owners. They commonly
had house frames standing at various
fishing stations and would strip the
roof and side planks to take to each
e., Doorway was in a gabled end wall away from
the prevailing Southeast winds.
1. A roughly rectangular space was left
between panels of planking, but there-
are some early references to a round
entry cut through a special wide

B-1. Nootkdn

1. Main house type was especially well suited
to their life style.
a. They erected house frames at all their
principle stations.
1. Removable wall and roof boards so
they could be moved from frame to
2. A single set of planks served them
year round.
3. Permanent frames would stand at
three sites usually.
a. Summer fishing.
b. Winter village.
c. Salmon stream.
4. For temporary camp people usually
took along a few of these planks
for makeshift shelters.
2. Principle house posts of this area were
sometimes left in the natural round of the
log from which they were cut.
A. Hereditary privileges might call for
the ridgepole to extend above the facade
of the house front.
1. Carved with designs or local
animals such as sea lions heads.
2. Carved crests were on the house
front to represent crests and
family ancestors.
3. The living spaces along the walls and across
the rear of the house sheltered the entire
local group.

B-2. Bella Coola

1. Occasionally had unusual feature of having
three separate dwellings placed inside one
a. Acess waE at the top of each- compartment
by removing a loose board.
b. The house was protruding out from en-
bankment with the front and sides on
pole foundations.

B-3. Kwakiutl

1. In recent times Kwakiutl's copied practice
of Northern tribes in construction of
plank walled sleeping compartments inside
the house.
2. House poles were carved in the form of totem
poles some with.a crotch to carry beams.


1. This type was predoniate among the Coastal
Salish tribes of the Gulf Of Georgia and
Puget Sound.
2. Thebasic house was almost the same plan
as the'"VWakashan" type of the tribes to the
4- a. Horzitonal siding was structurally seper-
ate from the house frame.
b. Usually a shed roof was used in place of
of the more general gable roof. This was
to be the major distinctive feature of
this tribe.
c. Wide raised shelves that served as sleeping
and storage areas ran along the side and
back walls.
d. The plan was somewhat narrower than those
of the gable roof houses.
1. Some structures although narrower were
much longer than the gable roof types.
2. A whole village might occupy a single
house of this kind.
3. Overlapping with other tribe sections was evi-
dent in the use of shed roofs by the Southern
Kwakiutl and Nootkans to the North. Also a few
of the Gulf of Georgia Salish Groups Built-
gable roof and shed*roof houses together.


1. Used by the Chinooks and most Oregon Coast
,2. Could be found along the Lower Columbian R. and
the Washington and Oregon Coast.
3. Although similar to those already described
it was a varient of the rectangular plank
structure unlike those commonly seen before.
a. The distinctive feature was a deep rec-
tangular pit which was dug and lined with
vertically set planks to act as siding
that was not visible from the outside.
b. Corner posts and ridgepoles supported long
heavy timbers on which the roof planks
were laid to form a steep sloping gabled
roof. The eaves of which were just above
ground level.
c. Raised shelvelike platforms three feet
above the floor ran on both side walls
and along the back wall. These were to
act as sleeping and storage spaces.
d. The doorway was a round hole cut through
a wide plank a little above ground level
at one of the gable ends.
1. One entered and descended a notched
log ladder to the floor level.
2. This small doorway was for defensive
4. These structures were commonly large enough
to house a number of family units.
5. Anthapascan groups of Oregon and the Northwest
corner of California, built the same type of
houses, but with a pit only a foot or so deep.


1. Prevalent among Yurok, Kapok, Lower Klamath
and Hupa tribes of the North.
2. A three-pitch roof is what set this type of
dwelling from the others of the Northwest
Coast. A poor man might build a gabled roof,
but a man of means and pride would have a
three pitch roof, which was most common among
these tribes. The three-pitch roof form had
no functional purpose that could be found for
this feature except as a local elaboration.
3. In some respects it was more like. the structures
of the extreme North of the described area,
then those of there neighbors directly to the
a. The house had a deep central pit.
1. The walls stood back away from the
edge of the pit by about two or
three feet.
a. This left a step or bench at
ground level.
b. This was used as a storage space.
2. This pit was to form the main living
space of the structure.
b. A round doorway just big enough to squeeze
through was cut into a large Redwood plank
and was located on one of the gable ends.
4. Yurok house types were more varied than those
of the Karok, Hupa or the Klamath dwellings.
a. These small villages had no discernable
plan to follow in the layout of their
village, unlike the well ordered beach
layouts of the coastal tribes to the North.
.b. Houses were small in contrast to others of
the same type in this area.

c. The houses of this are did not directly
reflect the kinship group basis of social
d. The major difference between the Yuroks
house and those of the same area was the
manner in which the entry was handled,.
1. The principle doorway was near one
corner of the outer wall on one
gable end.
2. A round hole was cut through a plank
and was closed by a sliding plank door.
3. Behind this doorway on the inside was
another wall. This second wall was near
the edge of the pit and formed a nar-
row anteroom.
a. It's long dimension was the width
of the house.
b. This chamber suggest survival from
a long forgotten structure of a
different type and time.
c. It had no particular purpose among
the Yurok except as a storage space.
e. Small terraced platforms of flat river cob-
bles were commonly laid along the house
front. This small area was for lounging
or as a place to do small tasks.
f. Houses of men of good standing were named
like those to the North.
1. Yurok's did not have a crest for their
houses but had house names that usually
had geographical reference such as "By
The Trail House".
a. House sites rather than structure
itself had the name.
b. If a new house was built on a old
site it acquired the same name as its


Elementary geometic principles were used to lay-
out the ground plan in a method that assured right
A. This procedure is known to have been used by
a number of the area tribes.
1. A stake is driven in the ground at a point
that is to be the middle of the house front.
The front of the house usually faced a
rough street or a body of water such as
the ocean or a river.
2. A rope the intended length of the house
front is tied to this stake at the marked
center of the rope.
3. The rope is then stretched out to mark the
location of the house front and staked off
at each end.
4. Two long ropes to mark the side wall locations
are marked in the middle then one end of each
rope is tied to each corner stake and pulled
5. The marked middles of each side rope are
connected by a rope that is the same length
as the house front.
6. The unattached ends of the long side ropes
when pulled to the back and connected with
another rope the same length as the house
front, when pulled taut this will give the
location of the back wall which is then
staked off.

7-^/j>P"5 .,o~e /*. -o

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Plank houses of the Northwest Coast were most commonly
built on piling or cribwork foundations which repre-
sented the ability to adapt to local needs.
A. Interlocking Beam Foundation (Cribwork)
1. An embankment is built up to form a found-
ation which was similar in construction to
our log cabin.
a. Heavy short logs are placed in the embank-
ment with notched ends sticking out.
b. Another series of heavy logs are laid
across the notched ends to form the
front of the embankment foundation.
These beams are also notched to form
an interlocking system with the other-
c. The space in the center of the foundation
is then filled with Hemlock branch and
2. This system is also used for dam buildingan
example is the dam at the old village of the
Nimkish at the mouth of the Nimkish River.
B. Pile Foundation
1. The whole floor or just part of it is sup-
ported on a pile with beam type of foundation.
a. When supporting only part of the floor,
the remainder is resting on an high bank.
b. The pile is buried deep in the ground
by a simple method.
1. The front side of the hole in
which the pole is to stand is
protected by heavy planks driven
into the ground.
2. Pile is then shoved into the hole
and gradually shored up.


A. Erecting of heavy timber members requires con-
siderable skill and knowledge of structural work.
B. These tribes had sufficient mechanical ingenuity
to adapt their dwellings to any peculiar local
C. In heavy structural work where simultaneous effort
is required, the crew uses rhythmic cries to
time their movements.
1. As an example, in the raising of the roof
beam the leader gives the signal for his
men by shouting, 'Wo". The men in reply
yell, "We,We,We'" in quick succession.
2. On this que the men then shove the beam
in place by pressing the lever arm as
described below and shouting "Ho" with
each effort.
3. As soon as the beam rest on top of the
post the leader shouts "Ha,Ha,Ha" which
indicates the work is finished.
D. The machinery for raising a heavy roof beam
which can be 8 to 10 fathoms in length and
5 spans thick at the front end and 3 spans
at the rear.
1. The main apparatus required is a lever
arm and a set of guides.
2. A large pole is tied to the house post to
form a ramp along which the beam is to be
3. The beam is placed at the foot of the slanting
pole, resting on a log placed at the middle
of the beam. This log will serve as a pivot
point for the lever arm.
4. The lever has a mortise near its short end

into which the lifter fits. The tip of
which fits the round surface of the beam.
5. The lever is then pressed down to guide the
beam along the slanting pole towards the top
of the post.
a. The raised end is held into place by a
temporary support which will allow for
final adjustments later.
b. Sometimes two poles tied together near
their upper ends are used as guides. Their
lower ends which rest on the ground are
brought nearer together as the beam i$
rasied higher.
6. Precautions must be taken to assure the beam
will not fall off the top of the post while
it is to be manuvered about.
a. As the beam approaches the top of the post
a stout plank is tied on the opposite side
of the post reaching about :two feet-higher
than the top of the post.
b. When the beam is in a place a similar plank
is tied on the side of the post where the
beam was pulled up.
7. The opposite eend of the beam is raised in the
same manner.
E. Wall beams which are not as heavy as roof beams
do not require large devices for placement.
1. Ropes and a group of men are all that is re-
quired for installation.
2. The beams are shored up and guided by men
standing on top of the post and guiding them
into position with ropes.
F. The cross piece over the door posts has another
method to position it.
1. The cross piece is placed on boxes.
2. The b4xes are covered with planks, then more

boxes are placed on top.
3. The beam is raised as more boxes are stacked
until it achieves a sufficient height to be
G. All heavy structural work can usually by accom-
plished with one of these three methods.


I) BOAS, FRANZ. Kwakiutl Ethnography.
University of- hicago Press. 1966
2) DRUCKER, PHILLIP. Indians of the Northwest
Coast. McGraw-Hill Book Co. Inc.
N.Y. 1955.
3) GUNTHER, ERNA. Indian Life on the Northwest
Coast of North America. University of Chicago
Press. 1972.
4) HAWTHORN, HARRY B. Cultures of the North
Pacific Coast. Chandler Publishing Co.
San Franciscio, Cailf. 1965.
5) LAFARGE, OLIVER. A Pictorial History of the
Amercian. Indians. Crown Publishers, Inc.
N.Y. NY. 1957
6) MARQUIS, ARNOLD. A Guide to America's
Indian. University of Oklahoma Press.

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