"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Living In The Past

One of the things I like best about travel is the opportunity see how people live in different parts of the world.

Last week over spring break, my family and I packed up the Jeep and took a road trip through the Mojave Desert, Death Valley and parts of Nevada and Arizona paved only by gravel. Although I returned with a little sand in my shoes, in truth I brought back so much more (and I'm not just talking about my score at the state line outlet mall!).

 In order to get a glimpse from the West rim of the Grand Canyon, we entered Hualapai Nation in Arizona, a tribal reserve featuring the much lauded Skywalk (*Ripoff alert: Unless your heart is really set on this, the views are just as good or better from Guano Point and there isn't an additional inflated fee.) as well as several more sights that made the cost of accessing the reservation worth every penny.

The Hualapai (pronounced Wal-lah-pie) have constructed a Native American village featuring replicas of traditional dwellings from the Havasupai, Navajo, Plains, Hopi and Hualapai Tribes.

It was fascinating. I couldn't help but imagine how different life would be.

  No duvet? No espresso maker? Free roaming snakes! Um, and about that running water... I would have been easy to spot: the grumpy, outcast squaw with a nervous tick...

So at the risk of presenting what looks suspiciously like a fourth grade report, I wanted to show you some truly, American homes.

The Tipi was favored by nomadic tribes of the Plains and would easily win as the most iconic of all tribal dwellings. Hualapai literature explained, "Fires were built in the center of the tipi and the smoke hole at the top allowed prayers to pass to the spirit world."

Wikiups provided shelter for the Hualapai tribe. Juniper trunks provided the frame, while earth and brush covered the walls and floors were lined with animal skins. The structures could be made quite large to accommodate entire families. 

The Navajo built Hogans using wood and mud. The wood was carefully chosen so as not to use trees that had been struck by lightning and believed to have lost their spirit. The entrance to the Hogan will always face East because it was believed that "everything that is good and prosperous come with the dawn of a new day". The Eastward facing entrance invites blessings inside.

The Hopi homes look more like what we're used to...except for a few key conveniences...okay, any conveniences.  

The Hopi houses are unique for their use of stonework -which was stone and mortar coated with plaster and painted with whitewash.

The Havasupai Tribe created the Sweat Lodge which, according to the Hualapai literature, was considered "the most profound and direct connection to the spirit world".

The Sweat Lodge used willow branches to form a dome shape which was then covered by mud and clay. Banana Yucca and Arrow Weed was used secure the willow branches. 

As much as things have changed, however, the best of the Native American homes continue to this day: using local materials is now considered 'green' and chic; a home should be situated for the best light; never underestimate good ventilation; and if any blessings find their way to your door, by all means let them in.


  1. Opening picture looks like a beautiful painting. You have a great eye!

  2. Thanks for your post! Random internet traveller from the under side of the world

  3. Thanks, Random Internet Traveller! You're welcome here anytime! All the best!


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