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Interpreting the Evidence

A Diorama Illustrates the Construction of a Seneca Village Bark Lodge, c. 1937

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    The Great Depression and WW II (1929 - 1945)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Colonial America
    Indigenous Peoples of North America

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load A Diorama Illustrates the Construction of a Seneca Village Bark Lodge, c. 1937 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A diorama of a Seneca Village illustrates how longhouses were constructed, 1937.
Historical Context
Iroquois longhouses were long and narrow: they were  approximately 200 feet long, twenty feet wide, and twenty feet high, although the length depended on the number of families living in the longhouse.  As the family grew, the house also grew in size. Most longhouses housed about twenty families, all members of an extended family related to the mother's side of the family. Each family had its own section of the longhouse, but there was a section in the center for council meetings. All members of the extended family belonged to the same clan, and each had a separate longhouse in the village.

The longhouse had two doors, one at each end, with cooking fires down the center. There were holes in the roof to let out the smoke. The outside was covered with bark. The bottom was covered first. Then the builders worked their way toward the top to prevent rain from leaking into the longhouse.

Essential Question
How does geography influence a society's culture?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain how geography influenced the design and construction of this structure.
Historical Challenges
Research the materials used and the steps involved in making a longhouse. Replicating these materials as closely as possible, create a model of a longhouse.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Make a scale drawing of a longhouse.
Science: Get bark from several different trees. Set up experiments to find out which one(s) would have been best for roofs and/or coverings for longhouses. Explain your findings.
English Language Arts: Create a chart showing the steps used to make a longhouse.