What Is a Teepee?

What Is a Teepee?
Tepees make ideal temporary or permanent homes and were used by Native American tribes throughout America as an easy-to-build portable shelter to house families and horses. Easy to set up and break down, tepees were warm in the winter and cool in summer. Strong and durable, tepees withstood gale-force winds because of their geometrical shape and construction.


Tepees were an excellent mode of portable shelter that suited the Native American's nomadic lifestyle. When natural resources were depleted, Native American tribes moved on to greener pastures.



Tepees can be 15 feet tall with the framework made from smooth, straight wooden poles that meet in the center, making a conical shaped structure. The framework is then covered with stretched buffalo hides to aid in keeping out inclement weather.


The tepee is still used today for shelter. A flap in the top center of the tepee where the tepee's framework meets allows smoke to escape from cooking fires. The flap can be replaced when the campfire is not needed.

Fun Fact

Native American tepee dwellers abided by the rules of tepee etiquette. When guests were invited to eat with the host, they had to bring their own bowls and spoons, and were expected to eat everything they were offered. The host cleaning his pipe was a signal for his guests to leave.

Time Frame

The Plains tribes followed the buffalo to have a good supply of food, clothing and hides to cover their tepees. The Plains tribes dismantled a tepee in less than one hour and were ready to move to their next camp.



Article Written By Victoria Ries

Victoria Ries is a freelance writer whose work has been published in various print magazines, including "Guideposts," "BackHome," New Homesteading" and "Mother Earth News." Ries enjoys working on diverse topics such as travel, animal rescue, health and home business. Ries is currently working on her B.A. in psychology.

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