Southwestern Houses

The hogan is a traditional home for the Navajo, which means “people." Unlike other southwest tribes that lived in pueblos, the Navajo lived in single-room dwellings called hogan, which means “home place.” If people needed more room, they built more hogans near their first one; a Navajo home often had several hogans. Hogan construction varies by tradition and religion of the Navajo people. The earliest “conical forked-pole hogan” was a pyramid with five triangular faces. The four posts of the hogan were symbolically positioned to the north, south, east, and west.

Later hogans, often hexagonal in shape, were constructed on stacked logs with mud and log roofs. Other designs of hogans were also guided by tradition and mythology. No matter what the construction, all hogans were roughly round, consisted of a single room without dividing walls and windows, had a central floor fireplace, and the door always faced the rising sun of the east. Life in and around the hogan was also guided by tradition, with the floor area divided into male (south) and female (north) sides; women stored household items like dishes and food on the north side, and men stored tools and hunting items on the south side. Men and women sat separately during rituals, as well. People slept on mats on the floor, with their feet toward the fire in the middle of the hogan.

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