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Wigwam Project – pt. I

Wigwam Project – pt. I

-“The buildings and improvements in the country were then few, and circumscribed within a narrow compass, and in a great degree partook of the unpretending simple character of their occupants.  Some constructed of rough or unhewn logs, covered in cedar bark, here and there a sprinkling of lodges or wigwams… These wigwams were sometimes occupied by families of the half-blood Canadians and Indians, sometimes by the natives.”    Baird, Henry “Recollection of the Early History of Northern Wisconsin.”  (written down in 1859) (WHC Vol. IV). 204-205

I have always found this comment on early Green Bay as interesting.  Although many sources show that wintering voyageurs (hivernants) and free men (gens libres) spent a fair bit of time in wiigiwaman, it is surprising to see them as a main form of lodging for many canadiens in a “settlement” that takes on so much of a European/French-Canadian model as well.  While canadiens in Wisconsin were commonly known to inhabit wiigiwaman while at the sugar bush, making maple sugar, it is interesting to see this in a more permanent fashion within the actual settlement, even if for the use of Metis.

With this all said, I have been wanting to make a wiigiwam here at home for a long time.  I finally decided that I should build one up the hill behind the house (about 100-150 yds. away) in the tall grass and prairie plants.  It is out of view of the house and of most other intrusions.  I think it would be a cool place for my daughters to get away and play at.  What kid wouldn’t want a wiigiwam?  I must also admit that when it is built… I hope to use it too!

This past weekend I cut poles (mainly hickory but some ironwood) and built the frame.  I did not use as many poles as I could have, but I was trying to make this as quick and easy as possible.  While bending and tying, I was reminded on how much more a pain this type of frame is to build compared to peaked (nisawa’ogganan) and conical (basjiishka’ogaanan) forms of wiigiwaman.  Oh yes, and this domed form of wiigiwam is called a waaginogaan in Ojibwe which refers to it the frame being bent (waagi means bent).  I also cut a bunch of cattails and will soon be sewing mats to cover much of the frame.  I hope to get the bottom covered in cattail mats (and maybe EVENTUALLY the entire thing).  I will likely be covering the top with oil-clothes, at least until I get better mats.  I think I have enough birchbark left to make one mat for the top and will have to do more harvesting and mat making next summer to finish that part.

Anyway, this project is officially started!


One Response to “Wigwam Project – pt. I”

  1. Bob Miller says:

    Any further news re the wigwam ? I started one back in the woods about 2 weeks ago. It will be used this Nov as our hunt camp, and we hope to have a winter camp this coming Feb. Due to time restraints, it will of necessity be covered with tarps this season. Hopefully, birchbark by next year. I’ll try and post a photo later.

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