Teepee houses (or Tipi house) have their origin in the Great Prairies of North America. The teepee were the typical homes of the nomadic tribes of the Southwestern United States, which as a whole made up the native camps of different tribes, such as the Lakota...
Discovery of the Teepee
It is considered that during the years 1540 to 1542 the design of a Tepee house was “discovered” for the first time.
Made up of Spaniards and natives, the expedition of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado , “composed of 260 men on horseback, 60 arquebusiers and crossbowmen, on foot, and more than 1,000 Indians”, are entrusted to find “the riches of Cíbola cities”.
From the descriptions made from that expedition, it is presumed that the original Teepee were much smaller than those that were built later.
Emergence of Teepee Houses
The architecture and design of a Teepee house has evolved to the same extent that human beings and their construction techniques have developed.
As most of the clans and tribes of the Great Plains led a nomadic life, they had to adapt to new climates and geographical situations, so their traditional Teepee shelter also evolved over time.
Who Created the Teepee?
It is not possible to specify exactly which tribe created the first traditional Teepee.
Comparing the map drawn by the expedition of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado and a map of the location of the different nomadic tribes of North America, it could be assumed that the Lakota (Sioux), Anasazi, Wounded Knee or Dine tribes could be the first to live in a Teepee house.
Currently, in the 21st century, many tribes still live in North America that use Teepee houses as shelter.
Architecture of a Tepee House
According to archaeological findings, it is claimed that the first Teepee had a very simple design, with just “two sticks holding some skins” to protect themselves from the sun, rain or wind.
Perhaps, we could imagine, that the first “architecture” of a Tepee House, was a first transition from the refuge of the cave man to the nomadic tribes of North-America.
Once the original man mastered the technique of hunting large animals, such as the bizon, the abundance of skins and food reserves appeared.
This made it possible and forced to create a larger and better structured refuge, which would allow the size of the incipient Teepee to be increased.
The initial Teepee house could have measured up to 4 meters in diameter. Later, with its evolution, a traditional Teepee house could measure from eight to nine meters. In this way, several people could live together under the same “roof” and more easily store food, skins, and other valuables.
Teepee houses have a conical design, originally made up of a dozen sticks that rest on each other, to form a cone geometry. Later, the skins of large animals were added to the construction, covering the wooden skeleton.
A hole was left in its upper part for the smoke from the bonfire to escape, which scared away wild animals and protected from the cold. As an entrance and exit door, a flap was created that allowed movement in and out of the teepee.
Teepees were quite sturdy and provided comfort for the American Indians.
The decoration of the Teepees houses included symbols that had great meaning in their cultures.
Construction of Teepee Houses
Generally, it was the women who assembled and moved these removable houses. They were the ones who chose the location and organized the layout of the village or nomad camp. A nomad camp with Teepee houses could be set up in an hour.
The women were in charge of building the Teepee houses and their were the owners of the Teepee tents, which were carefully designed to be able to be moved.
To build a teepee, a series of long poles were used as a frame. These were tied together at the top and flared out at the bottom to form an inverted cone.
The resistance of a Teepee house was based on three thicker wooden pillars. Once the first three posts were joined and tied, the rest of the thinner posts filled the spaces in between, and the structure was complete. Finally, the wooden structure was covered with large blankets made of buffalo skin.
These portable houses could be disassembled and packed in a very short time, when the tribe decided to move to a new direction.
Types of Teepee Houses Today
Currently, the Teepes have changed their shape a bit and their use a lot. Today we can find different types and sizes of Indian houses and they are very popular in the glamping fashion.
Children can buy Tipi-style Indian house toys to enjoy with friends. There are many models of Indian-type houses, which are sold in the online market.
On the other hand, there are Teepee HOUSES that are sold with the aim of camping or sharing romantic moments as a couple. There is also the possibility of making homemade Teepee.
American Indian tents have evolved, and there is no doubt that they have made a space for themselves in modern culture.