Traditional Native Uses of Teepees


What was a traditional Native tipi?

The teepees historically used by Native nations were made from lodge pole pines and covered with animal skins, birch bark or woven rushes. When teepees were set up, they were located and oriented to make the best of the natural energy sources: the wind, and the sun. The tipi was heated with a small fire positioned in the centre of the teepee and the smoke readily vented out of the hole at the apex of the tipi. The fire could also be used for cooking.

Who was using tipis?

The nomadic Natives of North America have been using the tipi as a dwelling for over 10,000 years. Many Nations east of the Rocky Mountains developed and modified the teepee for their lifestyles.

Mukwa Teepees manufactures teepees in the style that is traditional to the Aboriginal Nation: Anishinabe (Anishnabe or Anishinaabe). People of this Nation are sometimes wrongly referred to by the misnomer Ojibway or Chippewa.

Where were tipis used?

Although the majority of tipis were used on the Plains of North American, tipis were in fact also used by Native Nations all across Turtle Island (North America) for travelling accommodations. It can be said that the teepee was North America’s first RV.

The Anishinabe, who lived in teepees as one of their preferred housing styles, are the second largest Native Nation in North America. They were travelers and traders and thus became the most widespread Nation on Turtle Island. Anishinabe Natives can be found from Newfoundland to northern British Columbia and from Hudsons Bay to Florida.

Why teepees?

Teepees were used by Natives of the nomadic Nations because of their flexibility, portability, and because they could be set up quickly. The tipi was ideal shelter for Native Nations that experienced a variety of weather conditions. Teepee architecture ideally suited the windy plains environment, and with only minor modification it could also be used in very hot and dry climates, as well as very cold and humid weather.

The traditions and culture of the Native People living in teepees has allowed them to live in harmony with Mother Earth for thousands of years.

Learn more about the traditions of the First Nations that lived in teepees with Teepees At School Cultural Workshops.

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