How to Make a Native American Teepee

Some learn by doing, some learn by hearing, some learn by reading.  I learn by PLAYING.  I am SURE it is a learning style.  When we started reading about the Plains Indians, I was so excited about this project, we dropped everything and began.  I grew up  in Montana  and studied the Plains Indians  in elementary school.  I musta’ had this lingering childhood desire to build a teepee for my Barbie doll, because I HAD to divert from the curriculum, just a teensy-weensy bit.

STICKS:

1. Decide how tall you want your teepee.   Barbies are 11 -1/2 inches tall, but they needed room to cook and sleep.   We like the look of lotsa’ stick poking out of the top of the teepee, so our sticks are about 33 inches long.

2.  Send child outside to gather sticks.  Remind them to watch out for dog doo-doo.  We don’t have a dog, we have bad dog-owner neighbors.  I think there’s a sign in my yard only dogs can read, kinda’ like that whistle only they can hear, that says “Poop Here.  Public Doggy Restroom.”  Clean shoes before they come in the house to finish the project.

sewing 114

3.  Peel  bark off sticks.  Make a huge mess on dining room table that sits there all day and spreads to the floor and carpeting. Don’t know if  the Plains Indians peeled theirs, but I wanted the least amount of mess while playing with teepee for years and years.  Yea, after all this work, this baby is gunna’ stay in the family fer shur, you betcha’. (Speakin’ a little MinnesOtan tonight fur y’all.Oh, and a liddle’ ol’ Kansan, too.)

4.  Put sticks out on deck during dinner and forget them there.  Let them get  soaking wet in the rain.  Bring them in the next day to dry.

pumpkin, grandparent dolls 188

5.  Drill holes in sticks at the height you want your teepee to be.  Hey, that rhymes.  We drilled at about 21 inches from the bottom.   Don’t drill into the floor or carpeting.  Not saying we actually did that, just warnin’ ya’.

pumpkin, grandparent dolls 189

6.  Thread old shoelace, leather thong or whatever’s in your junk drawer  through all six sticks, with a bead in-between each stick.

making a teepee 011

7.  Spread out sticks to the width you want  before you tie the string together.

TARP:

sewing 037

1. Find a large piece of paper to make pattern, a long string,  a pen or pencil and a scissors. I chose my ugliest Christmas paper.

2. Tie the string onto the pen and trace a semi-circle onto the paper.  Your desired  interior height is the radius. Get it?  You used that Geometry after all, didn’t you? We drilled the holes at 21 inches, and made a semicircle with a 21 inch radius.

making a teepee 005

4. Cut out pattern and trace onto white material.  I had a piece in my stash that feels like canvas, but was a curtain at one time.  OOPS?  Was I supposed to hang them or play with them? This is an optical illusion, both circles are the same size, I promise. (Click on the link – it reminded me of something else kinda’ cool.)

5. Cut out cloth semicircle.

6.  You can cut out a cool pattern that makes an original opening, but we did the “git ‘er done” pattern.

ASSEMBLY:

1.  Stand up sticks.

making a teepee 014

2. Drape cloth around.

3. Pin in place.

4.  Rub soot from the fireplace around the top to make it look like a fire really was burning inside. (Beka’s idea, I was SO impressed.  I was especially thankful that she felt like it was HER project, after all, I was having WAY TOO MUCH FUN and trying not to take control.)

5.  Decorate as desired.  We saw a lot of decorated teepees, a lot of plain ones.  Beka opted for plain.  I think she was tired of the project, so that was exactly the PERFECT time to quit.

We wanted the teepee portable and reusable, so we didn’t hot glue the fabric to the sticks. 

CLOTHING:

making a teepee 024

The dresses are just T’s.  I measure from wrist to wrist, then from chin to ankle. I chose a tan fabric that doesn’t unravel, but you could use pretty much anything. I sewed the seam on the outside, then fringed with a scissors. If you don’t sew, you could use hot glue or hand sew. For the neckline, I cut a small half circle. I slit a little down the back so the dress can slip over the head, but I didn’t even put a snap there. You can bead necklaces, or sew beads onto the dress.

making a teepee 004
Don’t look too closely.  I never figured out the armpit issue, but Barbie can’t raise her arms, so it doesn’t matter.  Again, my philosophy is to sacrifice perfection for the sake of finishing.  The sooner you get it done, the sooner you can play.

FOOD:

making a teepee 055

This was our favorite library book to use, published by Clarion Books, from Houghton Mifflin Company, NY, because of vivid pictures and easy-to-understand descriptions.

Tribes of the Southern Plains

This book covered more about the Osage Indians, the tribe the Ingalls family lived near in Kansas. This was written by the editors of Time-Life books.

making a teepee 020

We studied the food and found things in the house that would work.  We cut up dried cranberries into little pieces and put in a small wooden bowl for dried chokecherries.  Stems from lavender became bitterroot. Small white beans were dried prairie turnips. (not shown)  Since some Plains Indians gardened, we had small pumpkins.  We had small wooden utensils we pretended were made out of buffalo bones.

BEDDING:

making a teepee 022

Beka just cut various pieces of fabric I had, felt, fake fur, a shrunken red wool sweater, to make the bedding.  Because they had already been trading with the Europeans, they had wool on occasion. When it was time to set up the teepee, she remembered a  diagram in Terry’s book and the materials to replicate it as closely as possible.  She described to me that the head of the home slept in the back, where the red blanket is, the children on the sides.  The cooking area is in the front and on the left of the teepee, the fire goes in the middle.

 

PLAYING:

making a teepee 030

Use all of the above items for playing and pretending.  Give each doll a Native name.  The daughter, Meadow,  neglected to collect firewood before it rained.  She will have to get out tomorrow, to gather kindling for her Native mom who is yet to be named.  They also need to make a stand for drying meat over the fire.  There is always so much work  for a Plains Indian woman to do.

making a teepee 026

The teepee is displayed in the dining room.  Daily we are adding a small project.  Today we made a bark basket by hot gluing a piece of thin white bark around a small plastic cap.  Yea, we totally cheated, but that’s OK.

The dolls will have to stay in the living room until we paint a horse and built a travois so they can move around this winter. Even in the Native culture, a man works from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.

But tonight, Native Mom and Prairie Momma will rest soundly, knowing we spent the day doing what we love, caring for our families.

 

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “How to Make a Native American Teepee

  1. Very cool teepee!
    I taught my girls about teepees using waffle cones and frosting. Your method is way cooler and better for your health…because we didn’t end up with spare frosting.

    • That sounds so fun, Tandis! Waffle cones would be the perfect size for Lego or Playmobile people. If you can’t PLAY YOUR WAY through school, ya’ might as well EAT YOUR WAY through!

    • Thanks! We’re having a lot of fun with it. It is easier to imagine what it would be like to actually sleep, travel and cook this way when we have the objects right in front of us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s