What were Powhatan homes like?

Inside a yehakin at the Powhatan Indian Village, Jamestown Settlement

Inside a yehakin at the Powhatan Indian Village, Jamestown Settlement

Due to their agricultural tie to the land, the Powhatan Indians built semi-permanent “towns”, as the English called them. Most Powhatan settlements were small, with fewer than 100 people. Ten to twenty houses, called yehakins, were randomly scattered among shade trees and fields. Some yehakins were small and round, while others were oblong, with rounded ends to make them more wind resistant. Young saplings were used to create a frame for the house. The people covered their houses with bark shingles stripped from trees, or with mats woven from cut marsh reeds. In warm weather these mats could be rolled up. Natural resources provided the Indians with what was needed for their survival. Most houses were only a single room. Furniture was limited to fur or mat-covered sleeping benches built along the walls with drying lofts above. At night, additional beds made of deerskins or reed mats were laid directly on the ground. A fire placed in the center of the room served as the main source of light and heat. A smoke hole cut in the roof directly over the fire, as well as doors, provided ventilation and additional light. Because of poor lighting, houses were mainly used for sleeping and storage.