In the Northwest, great forests of cedar trees provided Native Americans with an ideal building material.
The trunks of these trees could be easily split into planks as long as 40 feet. Using these planks, Native Americans built large, sturdy wooden houses that were well suited to their rainy climate. Plank houses were clustered to form villages, which were usually located along the beach. The entrance to a plank house normally faced the ocean.
To the Northwest Native Americans, a plank house was more than just a place to live. It was a symbol of a family’s social position. Most of the Native Americans’ wealth belonged to just a few families, who had the greatest power in their villages.
An important family’s house was painted with designs of animals and other creatures.
Along with totem poles, these paintings were emblems of a family’s privileged place in society.