From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The origin of the upper-Midwest earth lodge is generally attributed to the Mandan tribe, who were sedentary farmers and traders. When the Hidatsa later arrived in the area, they adopted the earthen structures. The Arikara built earth lodges long before they arrived in North Dakota. These structures were a familiar sight to traders and explorers along the banks of the Little Missouri, and were found in city clusters of up to a thousand.
These structures consisted of a clay outer shell over an inner shell of long grasses and a woven willow ceiling. The middle of the earth lodge was used as a fire pit, and a hole was built into the center. This smoke hole was often covered by a bullboat during inclement weather. Logs were gathered each spring as the ice receded and sheared them off; fresh logs were also cut. The most common wood used was cottonwood, a wet, soft wood; this meant that lodges often required rebuilding every six to eight years.
Men only raised the large logs; the rest of the work was done by women. Therefore, a lodge was considered to be owned by the woman who built it. A vestibule of exposed logs marked the entrance and provided an entryway. A windbreak was built on the interior of the lodge, blocking the wind and giving privacy to the occupants. Earth lodges often also contained cache pits (root cellar-type holes) lined with willow and grasses, within which dried vegetables were stored.