What Is the Origin of the Teepee?

August 10, 2018 6:18 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Some archaeologists believe teepees may have been used as far back as 12,000 years ago. Some archaeological sites have revealed indicators that dwellings made from a number of wooden lodgepoles in Utah existed at that period in history, thanks to the use of carbon dating soil samples in areas that appeared to be remains of ancient villages and campsites. These dwellings may either have been what we now know as teepees, or something that is closer to a “wicklup,” which uses brush and bark for the outer walls versus canvas or hides.

At these sites, archaeologists have also discovered stone rings that date as far back as 7500 BCE. These rings are more likely to be a sign of teepee construction, as they would have been used to hold down the edges of the hide that makes up the walls of a teepee.

Teepees continued to be used across the Great Plains of North America all the way up through modern times, though what most people today are more familiar with in terms of teepee design didn’t really become a popular design until after horses were introduced to tribes across the continent. These horses allowed Native Americans to be more nomadic in nature, which allowed teepee designs to transition to the point where they could easily be taken down and transported to a place where they could be once again set up quickly.

The teepee life

The teepee was a home, yes, but it was also important to the people who built it in that it represented protection from the elements. It was also a place for community bonding, and a sacred space where spirituality could flourish.

The floors typically had bedding spread out, and personal possessions would be placed along the walls and in between sleeping areas. Sometimes men and women would be put into different sides of the teepee, both for sleeping and sitting purposes, though because the teepees were small, this segregation wasn’t particularly extreme.

When the weather would get cold, Native Americans would make an inner lining out of blankets, animal hides and/or strips of fabric that would be hung all along the lower portion of the inside wall. This created additional insulation to keep the people inside warm. Grass or brush would also be used in between the lining and the outer wall to create additional means of insulation.

Weather could be a challenge for teepee dwellers. Keep in mind that the top of the teepee has an open portion. However, most teepees were designed to be slightly slanted to prevent the rain from coming straight into the teepee. Instead, the precipitation would flow off the teepee away from the opening. Some later designs featured canvas flaps that would catch rainwater and keep it from falling on people inside.

This is just a small taste of what teepee life was like for Native Americans. For more information about the history of teepees and lodgepoles in Utah, contact the team at Huberwoods today. We look forward to assisting you!

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