About Tepees

About Tepees
Their light weight and easy erection made tepees, or tipis, the preferred shelter for North America's Plains Indians until the 20th century. Though they look like simple tents, their construction is innovative and symbolic.


People from Europe, Siberia and North America used symmetrical cone-shaped structures as shelter, erecting poles with a smoke hole and covering them with bark, sod, grass, mats or animal skins.


A true tepee, however, tilts so that the back is steeper and the smoke hole is nearer the front. This configuration, along with movable smoke flaps, brings better ventilation.


Most Plains Indians constructed tepees from three or four lodgepole pine poles and buffalo hides. They placed entrances on the eastern side.


Plains Indians historically used tepees as shelter, with one or two reserved for ceremonial purposes. Today, they still erect symbolic tepees during rituals and events.


Both residential and ceremonial tepees have painted scenes on their hides, either symbols of mythological stories or scenes of the owner's success in hunting or war.

Fun Fact

Tepees are nostalgic symbols of the Old West. Today, you can sleep inside a tepee near many Western national parks, such as the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village outside Glacier National Park in Montana.

Article Written By Kelly Aspen

Kelly Aspen's writing focuses on natural places, cultural sites and wildlife. She has more than 10 years of experience as an editor and writer for various magazines, books and websites.

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