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Big, healthy cedar trees were needed to build a Haida house. The Haida would take their canoes to the site where they planned to take down the trees. Some people would build a fire and cook the food, while the others took the trees down. When the trees were on the ground, they were rolled down to the canoes and taken back to the village. The logs that were used for planks were cut on the spot and then taken to the village. Back at the village, the floor of the Haida house was dug out in levels.
To build a longhouse, the Haida needed a lot of trees. They burned them at the bottom. They would pack wet mud around the tree trunk about a meter off the ground. Then they would pile sticks around the base of the tree trunk and light them on fire. They would let the tree trunk burn until they could push the tree over or until it fell on its own. They might have used a stone chopping tool depending on the size of the tree to make it fall. Remember, longhouses were built before the Europeans came, before they had metal tools. Once the haida had the trees they needed, they placed the trees into holes in the ground and tied them at the top in an arch. Bark was stripped off bigger trees in sheets and stacked on the ground. Rocks were put on top of the stack of bark to make it dry flat. Once the bark was dry, it was placed over the frame of the longhouse and tied down. Inside the longhouse, platforms were made and tied on to the walls. These were used for sitting or sleeping.
shape and size
The haida also lived in igloos. Igloos were a lot smaller than the other two types of houses. They were usually between 3 and 6 meters in diameter and were a dome shape. Some had more than one room and some were joined to another igloo by a hallway. Igloos could not be very big because they would be impossible to keep warm. Haida houses were rectangular. They averaged between 25 and 33 meters long and could be up to 17 meters wide. Some were smaller in length and in width and some were larger. They all varied. Haida houses had a pitched roof. They were differnt because
gloos had small smoke holes because they had only a small fire in a kudlik stone lamp. Sometimes Haida houses had smoke holes in the top that had a board propped up to protect the opening from rain and snow. The planks that formed the walls were not tightly latched together so moss was used to seal the spaces. The moss was removed when the house was too smoky. Haida houses had elaborate totem poles attached to the front of the house, carved with animals that represented the clan that lived in the house. Some houses had a round or oval hole in the bottom of the front pole that served as the doorway. Others had the doorway to the side of the front pole. The Haida believed that when a person walked, through this doorway, he or she was protected from the outside world. The house that belonged to Chief Wiah, the chief of Masset which was a village on Haida Gwaii, had a front door that was made so that the person entering the house would have to stoop down low to get in. The entrance of this house was also slanted down into the house to make it harder for enemies to get in.
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