Although some would consider the Indian teepee a very primitive and simple form of housing, the concept was actually very brilliant and deserves acknowledgment. Unlike today’s houses that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, a teepee might have only cost less than one hundred dollars to make and it served the same purposes of shelter, warmth, protection and a kitchen of sorts with the fire serving as their main form of food preparation. The Indian teepee gets its name from the Lakota Indian language and translates to house or dwelling.
The Indian teepee consists of four main elements; a canvas or skin covering that makes up the outer part that everyone sees, an inner skin or canvas lining, a door made from the same materials, and ten to fifteen sapling poles that stick out of the top of the tent. Ropes and pegs are also a crucial part of part of the teepee because they are what hold the poles together and tie the canvas to the base or ground of the tent. The Indian teepee is known for its innovative smoke flaps that allow smoke from their tent to escape, and the opening at the top of the teepee that allows for proper ventilation.
The Indian teepee had many purposes, and served the Indians well for centuries. One of the main purposes was mobility and agility, and the need to move quickly when herds of bison and other animals were on the move, as the animals served as their main food staple. The teepees were quickly assembled and disassembled, so they were never far behind the herd. Another main purpose that the teepee served was the ability to cook and stay warm conveniently. The teepee was designed with a fire-resistant lining and smoke flaps that are angled at ninety degrees to the sky, so they were able to put a small fire in the middle of the teepee for warmth and food preparation. All in all, these teepees served many of the same purposes and more that houses today do, only they were far less expensive and easier to transport.
Joseph Paige © 2006