Wigwam or Teepee?

Another type of dwelling used by the Native American tribes is the wigwam, a domed shaped tent. The wigwam was specific to the American Northeast region where the Woodland Indians tribes were living.


A wigwam

Many times the term wigwam is mistakenly used to refer to a teepee, the cone-shaped tent used by the Plains Indians tribes. The truth is that the two have different structures and uses.

A teepee

If the wigwam was mostly used as a permanent dwelling, the teepee was more of a temporary, mobile dwelling. When the wigwam was not a permanent structure, it was a seasonal structure. At the end of one season the Indians rolled the cover of the wigwam and took it with them to the new location, leaving the wood structure in place. When they returned the next year, if they found the same wood structure they would just unroll the cover and put it on the frame. If no wood structure was in place, they would create another one. Wigwams were small and easy to build.

A teepee, instead, was carried from one place to another, both cover and structure, being quickly disassembled or assembled.  It was totally portable and thus very well suited to the nomadic lifestyle of the Plains Indians tribes. The teepees were about 12 feet high but after the Plain Indians started using horses the teepees were twice as high. There were fewer trees on the Great Plains. So it was necessary for the Plains Indians to carry the long poles with them wherever they migrated instead of trying to find new ones each time they moved.

Kids are fascinated by Indians stories and love to be involved in building activities. So why not try to build a wigwam or a teepee together with your child during which time you can talk about how the Indians built their dwellings and how they lived in them? A wigwam has a dome-shaped structure made of arched wooden poles while a teepee has a cone-shaped structure made of straight wooden poles. Traditionally, the wigwam wood structure was covered in bark and sometimes with additional mats or hide. A teepee cover was traditionally made of buffalo hide.

If you decide for a teepee, checkout this article where you can find instructions on how to build a real sized one. If you choose to build a wigwam instead and you feel overwhelmed with the idea of building a real sized one take into consideration a miniature structure made of flexible willow rods and thick sewing thread.

No matter what you choose, it will be a fun and educational experience for children and adults alike. So, happy building!

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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