Chikee or Chickee ("house" in the Creek and Mikasuki languages spoken by the Seminoles and Miccosukees) is a shelter supported by posts, with a raised floor, a thatched roof and open sides. Chickees are also known as chickee huts, stilt houses, or platform dwellings. The chickee style of architecture—palmetto thatch over a bald cypress log frame—was adopted by Seminoles during the Second (1835-42) and Third (1855-58) Seminole Wars as U.S. troops pushed them deeper into the Everglades and surrounding territory. Before the Second Seminole War, the Seminoles had lived in log cabins. Similar structures were used by the tribes in south Florida when the Spanish first arrived in the 16th century. Each chickee had its own purpose and together they were organized within a camp-type community. Chickees were used for cooking, sleeping, and eating.
Chickees continue to be used by Native American villages of the Miccosukee in the Everglades. Some upscale homes in southern Florida feature chickee-inspired buildings as garden or poolside structures. A few restaurants in Florida still use this exotic design to attract visitors.
Chickees are also used in backcountry areas of Everglades National Park where mangroves or large bodies of water prevent camping on dry land. Made and maintained primarily for backcountry campers, these wooden structures stand several feet above the water and can usually accommodate four to five campers. These structures have portable restrooms. Some "double chickees" are linked by a walkway and can accommodate eight to ten people.
There are about eight to ten chickees in one village. Chickees are very helpful, especially in the rain. Similar structures, while not referred to as chickees, are present further north, in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia.
Connection with Mesoamerica
The Muskogean spelling for chickee is "chiki." Among Creeks and Seminoles speaking the Hitchiti language, chiki is today the generic word for "house." Chiki is also the word for house among the Totonacs of Mexico. However, Creeks, who speak the Muskogee language, use chiki only to describe a summer house or open-sided residence typical of Florida. Muskogees use the word "chuko" or "choko" to describe a house with solid walls, suitable for occupancy in cold weather. "Choko" is the Puntun and Itza Maya word for "warm" or "hot."
Totonac chiki's are residential structures consisting of prefabricated wood frames that are encased with adobe or concrete after being erected and tied together. This same type of prefabricated house, called "post ditch construction" by archaeologists in the United States, first appeared in what is now Georgia around 750 AD and became commonplace after the founding of a settlement around 900 AD, now known as Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, Georgia. The use of post ditch construction spread outward from Ocmulgee to other areas of the southeastern United States. By 1050 AD, most houses at the large indigenous community now called Cahokia, Illinois were of post ditch construction.
It is likely that the word chiki originally applied only to prefabricated houses and over time came to generically mean "house" among Hitchiti-speaking Creek Indians. When some Creek towns moved southward into Florida during the 18th century, they used the same word to describe lightly framed houses suitable for a semi-tropical climate.
- Seminole Tribe of Florida - Chickee, accessed August 14, 2009
- Austin, Daniel W. (1997). "The Glades Indians and the Plants they Used. Ethnobotany of an Extinct Culture." The Palmetto, 17(2):7 -11., accessed August 30, 2012
- Lundin, Leigh (2006-08). "Swamped". Ellery Queen (New York: Dell Magazines) (8). Retrieved 2010-02-02.