Wigwam is the word for “house” in the Abenaki language. In 2021, museum staff worked with the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People and the Indigenous New Hampshire Collaborative Collective to build the frame for a wigwam on the museum grounds, near the location of a possible post mold uncovered during archaeological excavations in 2015.
The frame of this Wigwam is made from young red maple saplings; however, red willow or swamp maple can be used. Saplings are bent and woven together to make a domed shape. Once the frame is constructed, it is tied together in order to ensure a secure structure. A doorway is created facing east, in the direction of the rising sun. A wigwam would typically then be covered with birch bark, red oak bark, or elm bark, in order to create a dry, warm shelter that would last anywhere from 2 to 5 years. However, the structure at Strawbery Banke has been left uncovered for now so that visitors can see the internal structure.
This wigwam would be the typical size to house a single-family. Inside a family home, you would find a line of bench-style seating built around the perimeter, covered with furs for sitting and sleeping. There would be a center fireplace for heating the wigwam, and various items would hang from the rafters for storage.
Traditionally, wigwams can vary in size, from temporary hunting shelters that housed two or three people, to large ones for an extended family. Some larger, more elongated structures that would have had multiple fire hearths inside could be used for community gathering spaces. An Abenaki community would have been home to multiple families, each with their own wigwam.