The word “tipi” comes from the Lakota language and is made up of two elements: thi, which means “to dwell in” and pi, which means “they dwell.”

Tipis were used by many Indigenous people of the Great Plains as the tipi is highly durable and mobile, easily broken down and packed away quickly when a tribe needed to move camp in pursuit of more fertile land, warmer climates and bison.

Bison were indispensable to the Indigenous tribes. They provided them with food, tools, clothes, weapons (bison hide shields and strings for the bow), and the skins of many bison were needed to cover the tipi poles, which could be over 15 feet tall.

Although there was an abundance of bison, before the 19th century, there was very little wood on the Great Plains, and Indigenous tribes would often travel many hundreds of miles in search of straight poles to erect their Tipis. Three or four poles were lashed together to form a tripod, and then additional poles were added around it two or more feet apart. The shape of the Sioux tipi is not a perfect cone and is slightly longer at the front than at the back. The poles would always be positioned so that when the cover is in place, the entrance faces away from the prevailing winds.

To make the cover, fifteen or more skins (preferably from bison killed in the spring when their skins were thought to be thinnest) were stitched together with buffalo sinews under the watchful eye of an elder. The smoke flaps at the top were sewn on by a woman with a cheerful good nature.

The tipi was often painted with the designs inspired by the dreams and visions experienced by the owners. The painting also served to ward off evil spirits and brought protection to the dwellers.

The women of the tribe were responsible for the construction and ownership of the tipi. They chose the campsite, erected and took down the tipis and chose how the tipis were furnished and arranged around the heart of the tipi; the fire. Apart from being used for warmth and cooking, fire held a spiritual significance as it was symbolic of purification and transformation.

Cool in the summer and warmed by the fire in the winter, the inside of a tipi is a magical place with an overwhelming connection to the past. Born from the herds of bison of the great plains the tipi truly is the home of the hunter.

Assembly Instructions


First, apply glue one hole at a time as you stick in a pole and directly across from the first pole do the same to the rest of the poles going around as you go.

Use the one (1) piece of sinew to wrap around at the top of the Tee Pee approximately 1 inch from the top of the structure. Tie 3 knots for a secure hold.

You have the option to design your Tee Pee with Markers or paint before commencing to apply the skin on the Tee Pee (on the lighter side of the skin piece.)

Punch matching small holes into both sides of entrance flaps- insert short sticks snugly

Fold back the top flaps of skin and punch a small hole near the high point of each stick.

Insert sticks between flaps and glue to the ground at matching angle and enjoy

Optional – Glue on with Lepage’s White glue onto the base after Tee Pee is completed. You may spread grass, crushed leaves and twigs onto the bottom of your tipi to give it a more authentic look. You may also add small stones outside of the front opening to create a fire pit.




Curriculum Outcome

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