Houses of the Powhatan Indians
In the History of Virginia, by Capt. John Smith, the houses of the Powhatan Indians are partially described, and are found to be much the same as those of the Iroquois We have already quoted from this work the description of a house on Roanoke Island containing five chambers. Speaking of the houses in the vicinity of James River in 1606-1608, he remarks, "Their houses are built like our arbors, of small young sprigs bowed and tied, and so close covered with mats, or the bark of trees, very handsomely, that notwithstanding either wind, rain, or weather, they are as warm as stoves but very smoky, yet at the top of the house there is a hole made for the smoke to go into right over the fire. Against the fire they lie on little hurdles of reeds covered with a mat, borne from the ground a foot and more by a hurdle of wood On these, round about the house, they lie, heads and points, one by the other, against the fire, some covered with mats, some with skins, and some stark naked lie on the ground, from six to twenty in a house…. In some places are from two to fifty of these houses together, or but little separated by groves of trees." [Footnote: Smith's History of Virginia, Richmond ed., 1819, i, 130]
The noticeable fact in this statement is the number of persons in the house, which shows a household consisting of several families Their communism in living may be inferred Elsewhere he speaks of "houses built after their manner, some thirty, some forty yards long," and speaking of one of the houses of Powhatan he says, "This house is fifty or sixty yards in length," and again, at Pamunk, "A great fire was made in a long-house, a mat was spread on one side as on the other, and on one side they caused him to sit." [Footnote: 5, Ib, 1, 142, 143; Smith's Hist. Va., Richmond ed., 1819, i, 160.]
We here find among the Virginia Indians at the epoch of their discovery long-houses very similar to the long-houses of the Iroquois, with the same evidence of a large household. It may safely be taken as a rule that every Indian household in the aboriginal period, whether large or small, lived from common stores.