Native American Structures ~ Kiva Building
Native American structures reflect many cultures and many great ancient building masters. North America had 3 very separate groups that migrated here from Asia. All had very different goals and life styles, some nomadic, some agricultural. The 1st migration people were originally an agricultural people that came from Gotu in Himalayan China. We “walked away as the big snake that walked off”. When we reached North America we continued to walk as a snake and migrated 3 time both laterally and vertically across North and South American ~ trying to understand what was here. Petroglyphs in Paint Rock, Tennessee, bear the same migrations clan markings as the tip of South America, Campo De Chaco. Chaco is Choc in Spanish. Our ancient road system was established, wildlife was named and studied, cities were begun. The Southwestern pueblos are an excellent example of what came from Gotu and got established here. Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, is the central point of our migrations and road system. The ancient Mound Builder cities show how we adapted our building methods and agriculture to the Southeastern environment. Circular cities were in groups of 5 and were usually built in the horseshoes of rivers where the river could be sealed off for fish raising after floods. Our fish traps fed us. Our spirituality reflects Choc, a huge plumed flying rattlesnake/serpent similar to Li Chi’s Chinese dragon and the Drikung flying dragon of Tibetan Buddhism, both our cousins. Note similarities between Lhasa, the Dali Lama’s old home, and a clip built pueblo! Our snake just walked off and walked here a very highly developed people.
These 1st migration people wore textiled clothes not animal skins, constructed boats and traded agricultural products all up and down North and South American for thousands of years. We had highly developed art, machines and written languages. No other culture seems to have ever gotten near our understanding of botanical plants, hallucinogens and natural water systems. My tribe, the Pearl River Band of the Mississippi Choctaw, traded actively with Brazil and had a colony in Guatemala that we still maintain unbroken activity with today, unbroken even during the Civil War times. We utilize one basic idea around construction. We build 3 x 4 sheets outta what’s readily available in a vega latia construction style. These sheets are based on the constant body relationship between one’s arms and legs. This same relationship was used to build the Greek temples and many even earlier structures probably being utilized even before the last ice age. Vegas, in Spanish las vegas, are large poles that are placed over the tops of walls to make a roof support system. Latias are small poles that cris cross the vegas to make the roof. with some surface like sod or grass thatch as a water shedder on top. This makes a very square structure that can be adapted easily to the upper cliff walls of Tennessee river bluffs or the New Mexico and Tibetan cliff overhangs. Chinese movies about very ancient China love to show this design. In the areas where adobe can be made, it is stacked into walls with holes for doors and windows, bricks maintain this 3 x 4 ratio. The vegas are run across the stacked walls giving doors and ceiling support . The vegas in the inter chambers of the Taos Pueblo and old Hopi Pueblos are several feet in diameter and are huge whole trees that have supported the weight of the whole many storied mud pueblo for thousands and thousands of years! In areas where more trees are available and the soils don’t have enough clay to bake for adobe, vegas can be stacked for walls, like in a log cabin. The gaps in the walls can then be chinked or filled in with mud mixed with eastern buffalo hair, straw or sticks. Be careful with the use of straw, in that, it attracts mice and bugs making little “straws” as air tunnels for bugs, then mice, then snakes to enter.
More levels maybe easily added with more vegas or a temporary roof over the latia can be applied as a domelike or flat top. The gabled pitch top was added by white settlers to make their log cabin in these same areas. When the vegas are stacked as a “log cabin” circle in stead of a square they are called a kiva. A kiva design used as a home is called a hogan with most large kiva designs having a large pole in the center to support one end of the vegas in a center central point ~ like a tee pee on top of a round log cabin, so to speak. In cold areas many are half underground where in warmer areas, woven fiber walls are used. Woven fiber mat walls have good air flow, good shade and keep mosquitoes out ~ sort of similar to the Chinese paper wall construction. Cattails, palm fronds or palm frond strips shed water well and weave into 3 x 4 sheets easily using a cane/stick type frame with vine ties. Sheets go together quickly and snugly in circles for good heat and space efficiency. Strong ceiling vegas are excellent to hang things from like drying meats and herbs even hanging chairs and hammocks. Kivas usually have some type of ceiling hole for smoke and light. This hole can be small and easily closed for rain or be very large as in a community structure. An excellent example of a community home of this design (still in use today in the Brazilian rain forest) is in the movie, The Emerald Forest. Note structural use of mats and the earthen cooking kiva design’s similarity to a Chinese kan. These living circles are similar to what has been found in the Tampa, Florida area. The more holy the kiva the smaller the holes and the more soil involved. We still consider square corners a waste and that they weaken the overall structure. Most 2nd and 3rd migration people modified or utilized our design, none mastered it.
In building an earthen cooking kiva ~ a flat spot is found, weave a stick half sphere/dome frame, make door then covered with mud and baked. Works great indoor as wood stove or cooking surface. Chicken wire frame is good, whatever. BUT first make the door, the entrance to our womb! It needs to be thicker than our walls, wood or metal is good. The door you use to make it with does not have to be the door used for cooking later. I use about 10 sheets of cardboard glued together, cut first then glue. How big are your biggest baking vessels? Decide on your kiva, vent and door size. In sunny location ~ build it as small or large as you like, indoors or out ~ for cooking on or in.
1. Find or make a very level surface. On a rock is nice, on packed clay or loam works, on sand put down brick or rock flooring, build something outta concrete if you like. A large pan of water works great in leveling.
2. In wet concrete, stick bolts in a circle. In packed clay, stick short sticks or criss-cross green long sticks/poles from side to side. A stick in the center helps you stay centered and dome like ~ this is also good support during drying and for smoke vent hole if you choose to have one. Let concrete dry.
3. Weave, stack or bolt (attach) to the foundation well with the 1s t layer. Weave vines through poles making loose basket-like structure. Stack sticks/poles log cabin style around ground sticks making ones nearer the bottom cypress, bodock, red cedar, locust or rock. Wrap large wire around bolts or attach 2 or 3 layers of chicken wire frame. Remember to put in door and vent hole plug so that they can be easily removed. Door in East help with morning sun and shadows….
4. Apply thin layer of mud, clay or concrete to lower areas making sure you press into hollow spaces well ~ leaving no air gaps. Do around door. Let set up or dry somewhat.
5. Apply mud or concrete to rest of frame. No air holes! Add neat glass or mosaic decorations pressed into mud. Do vent hole very well. Check on door hole.
6. Let sun dry very well.
7. Remove door and vent plug and continue to let sun dry. In case of rain ~ replace door and vent hole cover and COVER well with tarp.
8. Build small fire in kiva for several house (or add small amount of coals and seal for not vent option). Let stand 24 hours to cool. This is to dry kiva so dry until dry!
9. Cover kiva with nice clay or finishing surface ~ inside somewhat. Add small glass or mosaic decoration if you like, Let sun dry for a few days.
10. Builder small fires inside for more low temperature drying for 1st few fires.
11. Resurface with nice clay or finishing surface.
12. Builder small fires inside for more low temperature drying for 1st few fires.
13. Paint and decorate with snakes and fire serpents!
14. Resurface yearly or protect from rains.
15. More cooking means more drying and baking of the clay oven itself. The more you use it the longer your kiva will last. Use periodically to maintain from dampness/moisture.