Indian Tepee

The tepee is a type of dwelling used by Native American people living in the Great Plains area of the United States. Though it was sometimes used outside this area, this was where it was most popular. The Indian tepee was popular because they worked well in all weather conditions, keeping dwellers warm or cool throughout the year. They also liked the fact that they could easily breakdown the tepee and carry it with them when they moved around.

The Indian tepee consisted of several different elements. The first was a set of long poles on which the covering sat. These poles were made from younger tree branches that were still pliable to bend and yet strong enough to hold up the covering. The covering itself was often made of deer or buffalo hide, though other animals were used as well. Native Americans also placed a separate covering over the front, which served as a front door. It also contained another piece of hide that they used underneath the covering for additional warmth in the winters or colder months.

The construction began by finding a flat piece of land on which to set the tepee. The poles were placed into the ground and then bent together at the top. They often used a flexible branch or piece of cotton to tie those ends together. A large hole was left at the top of the tepee, which served as ventilation when they cooked or used a fire inside. Poles were covered and then attached the flap that served as a door.

Resources on Indian tepees include:

  • Tipis: a history of the tepee, along with information on the interior.
  • Simply Different: describes different types of tepees used by different tribes.
  • Tipi History: examines the history of tepees and gives photographs of them.
  • Crow Tepee History: focuses on the tepees used by the Crow Indians.
  • Plains Indian Tepee: discusses the tepees used by Indians along the Plains area.

Modern day tepees, which are also known as tipis, no longer use hide in the construction. This is due to a number of factors, including the scarcity of those hides. Instead they use canvas and other materials that actually provide more heating during the winter and is less expensive. The tepees of today however, still resemble the ones used by tribes so many years ago.





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