How to Make a Tepee

How to Make a TepeeThe iconic tepee is an imminently practical classic of Native American tentage. A modern tepee kit requires only canvas, wood, rope and a few other simple household materials and basic tools to make. These instructions will teach you how to built a small, basic tepee with a minimum of fuss. With all the materials assembled, the task of making this tepee kit should take two people less than a day to finish.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • 20 x 10-foot rectangle of canvas
  • Measuring tape
  • Two broomsticks
  • Spool of twine
  • Magic marker
  • One helper
  • Scissors
  • Four hardwood support poles (at least 12 feet long and two inches thick)
  • Saw
  • Knife
  • Hatchet
  • Spool of rope
  • One lift pole (at least 12 feet long)
  • Needle and thread
  • Tent pegs
  • Rubber mallet (optional)
Step 1
Lay out the 20 x 10-foot rectangle of canvas fabric.
Step 2
Mark out a semicircle on the canvas. The quickest way to do this is to improvise a circle-drawing, large-scale compass. Take two broomsticks, and tape a marker to the bottom of one broomstick. Cut a 10-foot length of twine, and tie each end of the twine around the middle of the respective broomsticks. Place a helper in the middle of one of the 20-foot sides of the canvas holding one broomstick in a vertical position. Then step out to one of the corners on that 20-foot side, holding your broomstick with the marker in a vertical position. Keeping the twine taut so it serves as a guide, walk in a circle around the canvas using the marker end of the other broomstick to trace a curved cutting line.
Step 3
Cut the semicircle of canvas out with scissors. A canvas cover of this size is sufficient for a 10 square foot tepee.
Step 4
Fashion the four main tepee support poles. These need to be made of hardwood, 12 feet long for a tepee of this size, and at least two inches thick to support the weight. If you have longer poles, cut them down to size with a saw. If you are using lumber collected from the forest for the poles, whittle the bark off as well.
Step 5
Choose one tepee support pole, and cut a notch two feet from one end with your knife or hatchet. Use this notch to tie a 20-foot length of rope onto the pole. When you raise the tepee, you will use the rope to bind the support poles together.
Step 6
Fashion a lift pole. This will help you raise the tepee cover when you erect it. It should also be cut down to 12 feet, but it doesn't need to be as thick or made of hardwood. Something thinner and softer will make the pole lighter and easier to manipulate. Like the support poles, if you collected the lift pole from the forest, whittle away any bark.
Step 7
Fashion rod-like wooden dowels with a saw. Each dowel needs to be roughly the same thickness and several inches long. If you have scrap wood left over form cutting your support poles down to size, this is a good source for dowels. Do not confuse wood dowels with tent pegs.
Step 8
Measure and cut holes every 10 inches along the straight outer perimeter of the semicircle. These holes should be sized to be somewhat smaller than the diameter of your wooden dowels. When you erect the tepee, you will use the wooden dowels to pin two of these holes together and fasten the cover.
Step 9
Cut out three or four one-foot lengths of rope, and tie knots in them so that one end of the rope has become a loop. Stitch the other end onto the outer, round edge of the canvas cover to make them into tent peg loops. The exact placement does not matter, but a roughly equidistant position is more visually pleasing.

Tips & Warnings

If do not have a helper, you can drive the markerless-broomstick into the ground like a stake instead, to serve as an anchor.
It is a good idea to try your hand at erecting a tepee before you make your own so you have a clear idea of how all the parts fit together. Although this preparatory step is not necessary, it will make creating a tepee easier.

Article Written By Edwin Thomas

Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.

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