Wickiups: Sturdy but Temporary Structures

small villiage of wickiups
A small village in Central Texas as envisioned by artist Charles Shaw. Archeologists have found the remains of circular structures roughly 800 years old that may have been wickiups such as these.
modern wickiup
A modern wickiup reconstruction showing the dome shape and the thatched outer layer covered with animal hide. Click to enlarge picture.
view of the interior of a wickiup
A view of the interior of a modern wickiup with a hearth, or fire pit, in the center. Click to enlarge.

view of the interior of a wickiup
Some wickiups and other temporary structures were only large enough for a single person. This scene shows a woman resting in a grass-covered wickiup. Click to enlarge.

Wickiups were homes to hunting and gathering peoples who moved from place to place, sometimes staying perhaps a few days or several weeks in one location. Their homes were easy to construct from wooden sticks and brush found at each campsite. Whereas tipis were tall and cone-shaped, wickiups were short and squat. But unlike tipis, which were taken apart and moved from place to place, wickiups were just left behind when Indian families moved on.

These small, round houses were made of thin, flexible pieces of green wood bent to create a dome. Small branches were wrapped around the dome to make a grid. In cool weather, animal hide or thatch was used to cover the frame, sometimes only on one side to block the north wind. A small firepit was dug in the middle of the wickiup. Wickiups were much smaller than the thatch houses of the Caddo and only a few people could sleep in one.

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