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From Algonquin or Massachusetts wēk, “his house” or “dwelling place.” An Indian dwelling or hut. Sometimes written as weekwam. The wigwam, or Indian house, of a circular or oval shape, was made of bark or mats laid over a framework of branches of trees stuck in the ground in such a manner as to converge at the top, where was a central aperture for the escape of smoke from the fire beneath. The better sort had also a lining of mats. For entrance and egress two low openings were left on opposite sides, one or the other of which was closed with bark or mats, according to the direction of the wind. — Webster, 1882

The shocks looked like little Indian wigwams… – Farmer Boy, Chapter 19, “Early Harvest”

You might miss it, unless you’re reading Farmer Boy carefully for references to Indians and Native American culture. When harvesting and shocking oats, Wilder writes that the sheaves of oats standing with two bundles spread out on top to make a little roof, or oats in shock, looked an Indian wigwam with its rounded top. The description doesn’t appear in early manuscript versions of Farmer Boy, only in the final publication, and it’s the only time the word “wigwam” appears in the Little House books.

The drawing shown here is from an 1850s agriculture publication. The photo below shows a portion of a 1904 photo of oats in shock. Click HERE to see the full image from the Library of Congress website, and HERE to see a wigwam photo for comparison.


wigwam (FB 19), see also oats