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Plains Indian Teepee


Plains Indian Tepee
Pages 119-126 from the book Wildwood Wisdom

Here's a teepee pattern to print, cut out, and tape together.
Here are pages of decorations to add to the teepee, and more decorations.

Here is an example of a teepee made using this pattern, by Logan Alexander, a young New Zealander.

Plains-Indian Tepee

The tepee of the Plains Indians is a fine dwelling, where poles are available and a permanent camp is in order. It is a roomy structure in which a fire may be built, and is comfortable in extremes of heat or cold. The pattern of the tepee (Plate 67) is cut in the shape of a halfcircle (A), twice as long as it is wide, with 2 smoke flaps (B) near the center of the pattern. Fifteen by 30 feet is a good size. If the tepee is smaller, it is difficult to keep it free of smoke. Eight-ounce canvas is satisfactory for the cover.

When the tepee is erected, it forms a *cone shape; and the straight edges, where the smoke flaps are sewed, overlap and are held together with wooden pins. It is here that this detail should.be noted. If you follow the drawing closely, you will see that one side of the straight edge has an extra strip of canvas sewed to it for this overlap (C). A double row of holes is punched along the straight edge at (C) and (D). The edge at (D) will be under the overlapping (C) edge, and the row of holes will be a trifle wider apart than (C). These holes should be reinforced with a buttonhole stitch or metal grommets inserted.

A half-circle door opening (E) is cut at both ends so that when the edges are brought together a complete circular door opening will result. The door itself is. made of a round piece of canvas with additions to be turned in and hemmed (F). When the hem is completed, a flexible willow stick is inserted, making a firm door (G). A rope-loop is tied to the top of the willow stick, and is hung upon the pin just above the door and forms the hinge (H).

Little pockets are made of three-cornered pieces of canvas and sewed to the tips of the smoke flaps (B). Reinforcing pieces of canvas (X) should be sewed to parts where extra strain is expected, especially around the smoke flaps and the center of the cover, which is lashed to the top of the poles (l).

A rope is hemmed around the circular base, and rope loops for pegging down the tepee are equally spaced around it (J). A rope is attached at (I) which lashes the cover to the poles.

Erecting the Tepee

Twelve or more poles are needed for the tepee framework (Plate 68). These should be straight and smooth, and at least 3 feet longer than the width of the cover. If the tepee is 15 feet wide, the poles should be at least 18 feet long.

Erecting the tepee

Three of the strongest poles are made into a tripod (K), tied together a little higher than the height of the cover. The rest of the poles are then placed against the tripod, forming the cone-sbaped frame for the canvas cover. These are lashed together at the top with rope (L) . The last pole to be placed has the tepee cover fastened”to it, and should be placed opposite to where the door is to be (M).

The cover is then pulled around the pole framework and fastened together at the overlap with wooden pins about a foot long, tapering at both ends (N) (Plate 67). The bottom is pegged down, and the poles inside are spread to stretch the cover (0). Two additional light poles are needed for the smoke flaps, and these are inserted into the pockets of the flaps (P). The poles can be moved about to change the position of the smoke flaps so the smoke can be drawn from the tepee. The drawing (Q) shows how the air comes in at the base of the tepee and is drawn out at the smoke hole. The flaps act as a sort of chimney, creating a draught.

Tepee Fire

Only a small fire is needed to warm a tepee. Usually a small fireplace is made a bit back from the center of the lodge, a shallow hole about 15 inches in diameter lined with stones (Plate 68). The walls reflect the heat, and it is surprising how quickly a small stick fire heats the interior. Use only good dry wood that burns with a clear flame. Any smoke within will serve as an incense and keep the mosquitoes away.

Hints for a Rainy Day

One of the annoyances of a tepee type of dwelling is that water may run down inside on the poles during a heavy rain. One way of preventing this is to use a “bull boat,” a circular piece of canvas placed on top of the poles (Plate 68).

Another method was shown me by Dr. L. B. Sharp of Life Camps. He fastens a long cord on each pole just under the top of the cover, tied so that the cord leads from the underside of the pole. About halfway down, these cords are gathered together with one leading to a tin can. Rain coming down the poles is stopped by the cords and led down into the tin instead of continuing down the poles and eventually onto your bed.

Tepee Decoration

In the old days the Indians decorated their lodges with strange gods and magical animals. Plate 69 and Plate 70 show a few painted lodges I saw among the Blackfeet and other Canadian tribes of the West.

Tepee decoratons

When decorating a tepee, spread it out flat, sketch in your design, and wet the canvas. This is to prevent the canvas from absorbing too much paint. Ordinary house or oil paints may be used.

Tepee decoratons

Notes From the Webmaster

The illustrations and information above is from our book Wildwood Wisdom, by Ellsworth Jaeger, written in 1945. This is an excellent book on camping, outdoor craft and technique. However, the information given on construction of a tipi is somewhat incorrect, in that the tipi produced from the illustration will be a symmetrical cone instead of a tilted cone (the steep part of the cone to the rear). To create the proper shape, the center point of your layout should be a point centered between the tips of the smoke flaps. Wildwood Wisdom

Far more complete instructions for making a tipi can be found in the classic book The Indian Tipi: Its History, Construction, and Use, by Reginald and Gladys Laubin. Instructions also include gathering and shaping poles, setting up the tipi, and making the tipi colorfully comfortable. Click on the cover at right to go to Amazon.com for more information. The Indian Tipi: Its History, Construction, and Use

A GREAT! source for a ready-made tipi is Nomadics Tipi Makers, of Bend, Oregon, at www.Tipi.com. I purchased an 18' tipi from them in 1974, and spent two comfortable winters at 9000' elevation, high on the Continental Divide in Colorado. They are honest and have integrity. Ask for Jeb - tell him Lew from Shelter sent you. Nomadics Tipi

For enlightenment on other kinds of Native American shelters, check out Native American Architecture , by Peter Nabokov and Robert Easton. This is a beautiful and definitive book which describes the full range of Native American buildings. Click on the cover to go to Amazon.com for more information. Native American Architecture

For information on clothing, tools, weapons, and the objects used in the daily life of the Plains' tribes, The Mystic Warriors of the Plains is a good source. This large, beautiful book has over 1000 very detailed drawings, 32 color plates, 80 photos, 15 maps, and 15 charts which can only be decribed as art. Kevin Costner used it as his source material for the movie Dances with Wolves. The Mystic Warriors of the Plains

The Daring Book for Girls is the manual for everything that girls need to know and that doesn't mean sewing buttonholes! Whether it's female heroes in history, secret note-passing skills, science projects, friendship bracelets, double dutch, cats cradle, the perfect cartwheel or the eternal mystery of what boys are thinking, this book has it all. But it's not just a guide to giggling at sleepovers although that's included, of course! Whether readers consider themselves tomboys, girly-girls, or a little bit of both, this book is every girl's invitation to adventure.

The eagerly anticipated follow-up to the bestselling phenomenon The Double-Daring Book for Girls is an even more daring guide to everything from making a raft to learning how to play football to the art of the Japanese Tea ceremony. This second volume, with all new original material, promises to be even more of a daring adventure than the first. Girls will learn how to surf, get horseback riding tips, make a labyrinth, find out about April Fool s Day history and pranks, how to organize a croquet tournament, find out about cowgirls, the Nobel Prize, being a detective and much more! Just as packed with creative and exciting material as the original, but twice as fun, this book will be beloved by all Daring fans everywhere!

Are you looking for a little more information for boys, age 8 to 80? Try The Dangerous Book for Boys, covering essential boyhood skills such as building tree houses, learning how to fish, finding true north, and even answering the age old question of what the big deal with girls is.

In this digital age there is still a place for knots, skimming stones and stories of incredible courage. This book recaptures Saturday afternoons, stimulates curiosity, and makes for great father-son activities. The brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden have put together a wonderful collection of all things that make being young or young at heart fun—building go-carts and electromagnets, identifying insects and spiders, and flying the world's best paper airplanes.

The Dangerous Book for Boys

How to Build Treehouses, Huts and Forts is a book filled with projects for kids and their parents to build in their backyards. It begins with a chapter on basic carpentry and continues with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions on building treehouses, forts, and huts. It concludes with a section on "cool stuff for kids to make" such as trasure cheasts, cannons, catapults, and several fun projects to build in the snow. Each page is illustrated with wonderful descriptive line drawings. How to Build Treehouses, Huts and Forts

Originally published in 1890, The American Boy's Handy Book is the ultimate collection of timeless boyhood activities. Written and illustrated by Daniel Beard, America's founding father of scouting, this book shows how to have fun while being constructive, creative and daring. The book is packed with tips, instructions, and illustrations for things boys don't learn while playing video games and surfing the Internet. From making fireworks, shooting arrows, and fighting war kites, to building a raft, riding a sled and training a dog, the author encourages boys to be boys, be active, enjoy some innocent mischief, and develop their self confidence and character (although they probably won't realize these last two are happening).

While the author encourages boys to be boys, be active, enjoy some innocent mischief, and develop their self confidence and character, quite frankly, girls could get every bit as much benefit from this information as boys.

The American Boy's Handy Book

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