How Long Have Teepees Been in Use?

July 27, 2018 6:17 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Have you ever watched children build forts or secret hideouts outside? In many cases they create a structure that resembles the shape of a teepee. While this might be a result of them mimicking what they’ve seen on television, it’s actually also them creating a basic structure that has been used by humans for thousands of years.

Teepees were most famously used by the Native American tribes, especially those located in the Great Plains region of North America. They would construct these teepees to be their family homes or for ceremonial purposes. They were very important structures for the Cheyenne, Kiowa, Pawnee, Lakota and Arapahoe tribes. In fact, the word “teepee” (or “tipi”) comes from the Lakota language and the word “thipi,” meaning “they dwell.”

As Europeans and white colonial settlers began to spread west across North America, they observed teepees all over the land. Because they were so basic and so different from the structures they themselves created out of wood or stone, the thinking among these settlers was that these were very primitive, relatively useless structures.

The truth, however, was that teepees were and still are ingenious products of creative engineering. Teepee poles in Utah made very responsible and clever use of a limited amount of resources, and met many of the physical needs of the people who inhabited them at the time.

How are teepees developed?

Historians believe teepees could date back as early as 10,000 BCE, and they have, for the most part, had the same general construction design ever since, featuring poles that hold up a tent-like structure made of animal hides and other materials.

The poles used to hold up a teepee were usually made from saplings, which had their bark stripped. The poles were polished and dried out to create a sturdy base that would be able to hold up the weight of the teepee.

The construction process would begin by setting up the three largest poles in a tripod format, then lashing them together at the top with twine, forming a triangular base on the ground with the poles. Then there would be another dozen or so poles added in against the foundational tripod, creating a circle with a wide base—usually between seven and 10 feet wide for a full family.

The outer covering was made from animal hide and eventually from canvas as the technology developed. A single teepee may have taken as many as 28 buffalo hides to provide adequate closure. As buffalo started to become less available, canvas soared in popularity, which, thanks to its lighter weight, made it easier to use and transport.

The hide or canvas covering would have some extra security with the use of wooden pegs or heavy stones that secured it to the ground.

For more information about the early beginnings of teepees and how to create and use teepee poles in Utah, we encourage you to contact the team at Huberwoods today. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about our products!

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