Wendat villages were places of residence, food storage and interaction. The main buildings within the village were longhouses. The longhouse represented the physical expression of their basic family, social, religious and economic life. The longhouse was a windowless structure, six to nine metres wide and about the same height. Archaeological evidence indicates that the average longhouse was between twenty-five to thirty metres long. Longhouses generally faced northwestward into the prevailing wind. This could have been done to prevent the longhouses from blowing down in a strong wine or to prevent the spread of fire from one dwelling to another. Longhouses were usually built parallel to each other at about three to four paces apart. From archaeological evidence, it appears that longhouses were made of cedar bark and covered by large pieces of elm bark. Doors were left at the ends and sometimes along the sides, and they were usually low to the ground. To enter, a person would need to bend over. Holes were left in the roof to allow smoke to escape and to allow some light in. Large hearths were about 6 metres apart with usually two families per fireplace.
The most common family descent pattern within the longhouse had everyone related through the mother matrilineally. The Wendat did have a strong tradition of hospitality. Visitors were usually permitted to reside for short or long periods of time within the longhouse.
Flat, shelf-like platforms of bark and poles raised off the ground ran along both sides of the interior of the longhouse. In winter, since people slept on the floors near the fires, the shelves could serve for storage. In the summer, people slept in the open air or on the shelves to avoid fleas. Furnishings included reed, bark, or husk mats on the floor, skins on the doorways, pottery vessels, baskets and huge barrels of stored, shelled corn.
The smoke and inadequate lighting caused eye disease and sometimes blindness among older people.
A longhouse usually lasted for approximately eight to ten years when a village would move locations. Reasons for the move varied from soil depletion, exhaustion of firewood, to threat of attack.
INSPIRING FIRST NATION LEGENDS
The Dream Catcher
There lived long ago, an old Indian chief and his daughter. This chief guided this tribe with the help of kind spirits who visited him in his dreams. His people prospered and lived in harmony with their world.
As time passed, the chief was visited more often by evil spirits. His people became confused and grew careless. The chief's daughter, searching for a way to help him, remembered something she had learned from an old and wise woman. Taking a stick, she bent it into a circle to represent the endless cycle of life. Then she wove a many-pointed star so that each point represented one of the gifts of the universe. All that is green and growing, all that moves and breathes, the difference elements, the Mother Earth herself, and the coulds and stars and all the things we cannot touch. Every point was necessary to support the web. The feather and beads, representing sky, water, animals, soil and plants, were added at the end.
The daughter explained that the web should be hung above the chief's bed to catch the good spirts, while the evil ones would disappear through the hole in the middle. Thus the chief grew in strength and wisdom, and his people regained their balance and prosperity. And from that day forth, they have kept Dream-Catchers above their beds.
The Three Sisters
Corn, beans and squash were always planted together. The Indians believed that their spirits were loving sisters who liked to stay beside one another. When the seeds were planted, the Indians prayed to the Thunder Spirit not to burn the earth and to give the sisters all the water they needed. Late in the summer, when the crops were ripe, the people celebrated because the sisters had grown up.
At the next moon, they danced in honour of the harvest. The life cycle was complete. On that day, the woman sang: "The three sisters are happy because they are home again from their summer in the fields".
The Legend of the Turtle
The Huron believed that Aataentsic, the mother of mankind, had originally dwelled in the sky where spirits live, much as mankind does today on earth.
One day, when either chasing a bear or cutting down a tree to obtain medicine for her husband, Aataentsic slipped through a hole in the sky and began to fall.
The great tortoise which swam in the ocean saw this and ordered the other aquatic animals to drive to the bottom of the ocean and dredge up soil to pile on his back. They did so and, in this way, the earth was formed and Aataentsic landed gently upon it.