In off-the-freeway pockets of rural America, pre-Columbian customs for beating the heat and fighting the cold are still practiced. In the 1870s American Indian house life was investigated by Lewis Henry Morgan, the "father of American anthropology," principally to discover what it revealed of social life. But new interest in native American dwellings has begun to focus on its energy efficient features as well as the symbolism of traditional Indian structures.
This fall, outside of McLoud, Okla., Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Cuppawhe will be among the Kickapoo families moving large cattail roofing mats from the peaked frames of their summer houses to their haystack-shaped winter houses. During summer, mats are laid on the roof allowing cooling breezes to waft through the wide openings left by loosely tied side boards and beneath raised sleeping benches. In winter, however, the "wikiup" is shrouded to the ground with layers of mats. The Kickapoo believe they were taught this pattern of dual residence by Wisaka, a culture hero, who also showed them how to transfer the sacred central fire with each move.