April 18, 2022 11 min read

The word “teepee” originates from the Lakota word “tipi,” which means “to live in.” Teepees were used as portable homes by many Native American tribes, including the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Sioux. They were easy to set up and take down, and could be moved to follow the herds of buffalo.

Teepees, tipis, and tepees are all words for the same thing: a type of temporary shelter used by Native Americans. Teepees have a long and rich history, and they continue to be popular among many people today. If you're looking for a unique and stylish way to travel, a teepee might be the perfect option for you.

Many Styles - Same Conical Principles

“Teepee, tipi or tepee” the varied spellings are just a fraction of the many design variation adopted by the nomadic plains tribes. Despite the many styles the overall principles remained the same; a conical structure consisting of a lodgepole framework and a hide cover which was later replaced by canvas as the buffalo disappeared. The teepee allowed for quick setup and takedown permitting the tribes to remain mobile and follow the buffalo herds which were their primary food source.

Roughly twenty buffalo hides could be sewn together using bone awls and sinew thread to create a teepee cover for an eighteen foot lodge. Once the cover was in place a smudge fire was built inside the teepee and the new cover thoroughly smoked to make it water resistant. A new cover would last one to two years and afterwards the rotting lower sections of the covers were removed and they were reused for smaller tents.

What sets the teepee apart from other conical tents is the slight backwards tilt and smokeflaps. The backwards tilt braces the teepee against strong winds and the smokeflaps created a ventilation system that allowed for fires to be burned inside.

Also aiding in the ventilation was an additional lining or dew cloth on the inside of the teepee. The liner prevented drafts by sealing out winds blown under the cover and rain water running down the lodgepoles.

How Were The Tipis Constructed

A typical family tipi is a conical, portable structure that has two adjustable smoke flaps at the top. The framework consists of 13 poles, from 12-25 feet in length, which after being tied together near the top are securely held upright with a twist to cross over the poles above their fastening. The base of each pole is then adjusted into a circular base around 10 feet in diameter - so a lot smaller than our Big Hats! These main poles were secured in the same way ours are: long pins hold them all together as they lean upon one another much like in a large ring around your bonfire. An adjustment is given to accommodate these strong winds we get out here on the plains.

Early History of Tipis

Teepees, also known as tipis, are one of the most iconic images of Native American life. These conical structures were used by many Plains tribes as both homes and portable shelters. Though teepees vary in size and design, they all share a common purpose: to provide a comfortable and practical dwelling for their occupants. Teepees have a long and rich history. The first recorded use of teepees dates back to the early 16th century when Spanish explorers observed them being used by the nomadic tribes of the Great Plains. Teepees quickly became popular among Plains Indians, who found them to be ideal dwellings for their mobile lifestyle.

The Native American Tribes That Traditionally Lived In Tipi

The Native Americans who lived in teepees were nomadic, meaning they moved from place to place in search of food and shelter. The teepee was easy to set up and take down, which made it the perfect shelter for nomadic tribes. The history of the teepee dates back thousands of years. Native Americans began using teepees as early as the 11th century. The Plains Indians, who lived in the central United States, were some of the first to use teepees. They would often decorate their teepees with symbols and paintings that told stories about their tribes.

The Materials Tipi, Teepee Made Of

Teepees, also known as tipis, are traditional Native American dwellings. They are cone-shaped and made of wooden poles with a covering of animal skins or blankets. Teepees were used by many different Native American tribes across North America and were typically erected on the Great Plains. The word "teepee" is derived from the Lakota word "tipi" which means "to dwell". The Lakota were one of the first tribes to use teepees and they continue to use them today. Teepees were originally designed to be easily disassembled and transported as the Native Americans followed the herds of bison. The frame of a teepee is made of wooden poles that are placed in a circle.

tipi teepee

How They Were Used

Teepees were originally designed as portable homes for nomadic tribes, as they could be easily dismantled and transported. The structure itself was made from wooden poles and animal skins and typically had a conical shape. They were made from buffalo hides and other materials that were readily available to Native Americans. The hides were sewn together and then stretched over a frame of wooden poles. The door of the teepee was typically left open during the day to allow for ventilation, and a fire was built inside for warmth and cooking.

Teepees were often decorated with geometric patterns. They were easy to set up and take down and could be moved easily from one location to another.

The conical shape of the teepee was ideal for shedding wind and rain, and the smoke hole at the top provided ventilation and allowed for cooking inside the shelter. Teepees were also used as hunting lodges, where hunters could take shelter while waiting for game.

We study the history of teepees, we learn that they were sacred lodges used by Native Americans. Originally constructed by women and transported by horses, they were a symbol of human creativity. In addition to being a symbol of human creativity, they also served as a symbol of family life. Read on to discover more about teepees and how they were used by Native Americans.

The Use Of The Teepee Today

There are many different ways to use a teepee today. Some people use them for camping, some for storage, and some for decoration. No matter what the use, a teepee is a versatile and convenient item to have.

Tipis Were Sacred Lodges

Before the invention of electricity, Native Americans made use of tipis for many purposes. Some were used as communal houses, while others served as a place for spiritual gatherings. Historically, tipis were constructed in circular shapes, opening to the east. In these encampments, tipis were arranged in precise order within the overall circle. Sometimes, subdivisions formed subsidiary circles, and painted tipis formed a small inner circle within the overall circle, usually during important gatherings.


Many artists used paint to decorate tipis, and some created elaborate designs for warriors and chiefs. Other tribes left them unadorned. Some tribes were remarkably artistic, and many of the surviving tipis bear their artists' signatures. Paintings depicted important spiritual images, hunting exploits, celestial bodies, and dreams. Ultimately, these artifacts reflect the resiliency and creativity of the Plains Indians.

The traditional tipi consisted of a staked-down hide, which was held together by poles. It had vent openings in the sides to allow smoke to escape from the inside when the occupants lit fires. A slight east lean allowed air to flow easily over the tipi's roof. In addition, it served as a place of honor for the tipi owner. In the end, the tipis served as a traditional home and a spiritual center.

Tipis were used by many indigenous tribes throughout pre-colonial North America and Canada. Many different designs were used for tipis in different parts of the continent. For example, some were made of bison hide, while others were constructed from other materials. Today, tipis are usually larger, taller, and more spacious than their traditional counterparts. They can accommodate one or two families. If you are looking for the perfect holiday, make sure you book yourself a vacation or a last-minute getaway in one of these ancient lodges.

When it comes to building a tipi, the first step is tying together three poles. These poles are known as tripods, and are held upright by the ends. They are then spaced out a few feet beyond the triangle.

These poles are used for the frame of the tipi, and the poles are held in place with wooden or bone pins. A tipi can be as large as 12 square feet or as large as six square feet.

They Were Constructed by Women

The building process of a tipi began with the construction of a tripod frame consisting of three or four poles. The walls of a tipi slope from steepest in the rear toward the doorway, and smoke flaps were secured to the front and back by long, exterior poles. Women usually built tipis and were the main builders. The tipi's door was a gap in the hide cover that was secured with bone or wood pins.

In addition to the poles, the tipi had an adjustable cover, including two smoke flaps and a rug for babies. Traditionally, the cover was made of buffalo skins, but could also be made of other material. The poles were made of raw hide, and wooden pegs were used to anchor the structure. The insulating lining was decorated with vivid patterns and symbols.

Although most Indians did not live in tipis, many tribes across the Great Plains used them as their primary homes. Typically, women were the primary builders and occupants, with men helping out occasionally. Women used buffalo skins for the covers and tanned them themselves, while men helped with the construction process. Women sewed the buffalo skins together into a semi-circular one-piece covering.

While women built the inside of the teepee, men were responsible for its outside. The men traded for poles or made them themselves. Men painted the outside of the teepee, which often represented some sort of achievement. Each tribe had its own style. Some were painted white, others had a tribal symbol painted on them. The painting process was an art form and an important symbol for the people living in the teepees.

The construction of teepees was traditionally a female endeavor. Women made the teepee's coverings, which were typically made of tanned buffalo hides. These hides were not valuable to traders and were often used for teepee coverings. Women also made the coverings for tepees, constructing them in patchwork style. In addition to the covering, the women would also sew up the poles. The outer covering was a circle with a wide base.

They Were Transported by Horses


The tipi, or teepee, was a sacred structure of the Plains Indians. Its basic shape represents the earth, the mother and the sky, and the poles represent the trail to the spirit world.

The tipi was also constructed with a small stone or earth altar for burning incense during prayer ceremonies. During major gatherings, the tipi poles formed a small inner circle within the overall circular structure.

The teepee was joined on the downwind side where the door was located. This side was accessed by lacing pins. The pins went through holes in the covering, which looked like buttonholes. As the teepee grew in size, it became increasingly difficult to transport on foot.

Horses, however, provided a more efficient method of transportation.

The building process involved several different steps. First, three or four poles are tied together, and then more are added to create an oval floor plan. The remaining poles form a frame. One of the poles is used to adjust the smoke flaps, while two others support the roof. The poles extend several feet beyond the point of cross. In this manner, the length of a tipi is restricted by the number and size of poles available. In the Crow tribe, the poles were longer than the others.

A typical tipi contained hide bedding, a rug for the baby, willow rod backrests, and a suspended cooking bag over a central fire. Additionally, the tipi contained bags of medicine, food, and fuel for the camp. In addition to these, sacred objects and other items were placed on the insulating lining of the teepee.

Besides being built from buffalo hides and long poles, teepees were also used by the Plains Indians after horses were introduced. Although they are more durable than wigwams, they were still quite light and comfortable to live in. As a result, the teepees were usually made from buffalo hides, rather than wood.

They Were a Symbol of Human Creativity

Historically, teepees were used to house the nomads in the Great Plains. Long wooden poles were used for the structure, which was covered with buffalo hide. While these primitive dwellings may appear primitive today, they were a remarkable expression of human creativity. The primitive tipi was constructed to meet all of the needs of its inhabitants. The teepee was a common type of house used by different tribes in different areas of the Great Plains. Students discussed the typical features of Native American teepee design and painted their individual tees. They also assembled and dismantled their tees.

The teepee's shape inspired children to build similar shelters for themselves. Teepees served as places for storytelling and gatherings, and can still be set up at pow wows and First Nations Celebrations. In addition to being a symbol of human creativity, teepees are often used as a place for people to share stories with their elders.

The Native Americans created their tepee designs based on their personal visions and dreams. They would interpret these visions on their tees, and the original owners became the exclusive holders of these patterns. Copying designs was forbidden, as copying them would result in death and sickness. However, if the tees were used for a long time, the original designs would be transferred to them as a form of sacrifice.

Final Thoughts

The history of teepees is a long and varied one, with many different tribes and cultures contributing to the development of this iconic structure. Today, teepees are still used by some Native American tribes, but they also hold a special place in the hearts of many people who choose to live in them as a way to connect with nature and the past. Whether you are interested in the history of teepees or are simply looking for a unique and beautiful way to live, there is much to love about these amazing structures.

tipi trough history

Commonly Asked Questions

Why are tipis called tipis?

The word 'tipi' is derived from the

Dakota word 'thipi', which means 'house'. The Dakota were a Native American tribe who lived in the northern Great Plains.

Tipis were originally designed by the Dakota and other Plains Indians as portable homes that could be easily set up and taken down.

They were made of buffalo skins and were very sturdy and durable.

How did teepee Native Americans' homes were made?

Teepees were originally made by Native Americans out of buffalo hides. The buffalo hides were stretched out and sewn together with sinew to create a large cone-shaped structure. The teepee would then be erected by lashing wooden poles together and setting them up in a tripod fashion. The poles would be placed on the ground and then the buffalo hides would be draped over the top and attached at the top.

How is a native American teepee used today?

Native American tipi is used today for a variety of purposes, including as temporary shelters, storage units, and classrooms.

Author - Olivia Poglianich
Olivia Poglianich          

Content Strategist

Olivia Poglianich is a nomadic brand strategist and copywriter in the surf, watersports and outdoor adventure space who has worked with brands such as Visa, Disney and Grey Goose. Her writing has taken her all over the world, from a Serbian music festival to a Malaysian art and culture event. Olivia is a graduate of Cornell University and is often writing or reading about travel, hospitality, the start-up ecosystem or career coaching. Her latest interests are at the intersection of web3 and communal living, both on and offline.

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