The Huron

By Mikayla Dietz


The Huron Indians lived in a home called The Longhouse. A Huron longhouse was usually made from white birch or alder trees that were small enough to bend, rope that had been made by braiding together thin strips of bark, and sheets of bark to cover the frame. Longhouses were often made 15 to 20 ft wide and 150 ft long. The natives called longhouses gananchia. In a longhouse they would have 2 fire pits, low bunks and high bunks, a little storage room at the back where they put wood and 2 little openings at the top of the roof so that when they had fires the smoke would go away. They used the lower bunks for sleeping on and the higher bunks for storing different things. Most Huron’s lived in their home for 10 to 15 years and then they would make a new one somewhere else where the ground was moist.


The diet of the Huron tribe was varied since they grew most of the food that they ate. Aside from the wild game and fish that they caught, the Huron also grew squash, corns and beans. They also harvested wild fruits and berries to complement their diet depending on the season. In the longhouse, corn was hung to dry. When it was dry some of the kernels were kept for next year to plant new crops. The rest was ground into corn meal. Fish and meat were hung to dry or smoked. Smoking the meat gives it a very different flavour. When the food was dried, it was then ready to be stored. On the floor of the longhouse, there were storage pits, big deep holes in the ground where food and other things were kept. Most of these were under the sleeping platforms or in the end compartments of the longhouse so no one would step on them. They also used big barrels made from bark to store their food.


Huron clothing was made from deer and beaver hides. Men wore loincloths and moccasins. In winter, they added leggings and sleeves and a cloak made of fur. Women dressed the same way, substituting a skirt for the loincloth. The Huron wore body paint and beads, and red was a favourite colour. They also used porcupine quills and feathers for decoration. Women wore ornamental bone combs in their hair. Wampum made of shells, bones and glass beads was another popular decoration. Men wore fire pouches on their backs in which they carried tobacco pipes, charms and other personal belongings. Their main footwear was moccasins. Wyandot women usually wore their hair in one long braid. Some Wyandot men wore their hair long too, but others shaved their heads in the Mohawk style. Some warriors even made this hairstyle more impressive by adding a brightly colored porcupine roach.


The Huron used birch bark canoes to travel along the St.Lawrence River. The Huron discovered that birchbark was light, waterproof, and strong. It did not shrink, so sheets of it could be sewn together. Unlike the bark of other trees, the grain of birch runs around the tree rather than parallel to the trunk. This allowed it to be formed into the sophisticated and subtle forms that became the birch bark canoe. Birch bark canoes held heavy loads and kept passengers and their goods dry. The Huron also used snowshoes. They were mainly used when there was snow to go hunting. Traditionally, the task of making snowshoes was a job shared by men and women; men made the frames while women laced the deck area with babiche. Frames were formed by bending lengths of wood that had been split and cut to length from straight logs of the preferred wood at hand.The lengths are then steamed and bent into the appropriate shape using a form. Crossbars, usually two, were added and the tails were pinned together. After the snowshoes had dried and holes were drilled, the women would take over, weaving the babiche lacing that filled the frames.


The Huron lived in the Southern part of present day Ontario. The Huron's traditional lands are found in eastern Canada. The Huron lived in central Ontario, in the areas around lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay. Some Huron were found in the St.Lawrence valley, near what is now the Quebec border. They had to endure extremely cold winters and hot summers. It was very windy and had a shorter growing season. Some flora in their territory included birch, southern pine, elm, dogwood, oak and hickory. Fauna they had included bears, moose, deer, caribou and grey wolves.