Published on August 10, 2014 by Amy
The tepee, also known as a tipi or teepee, was the traditional housing of nomadic American Indian tribes who followed buffalo herds. Its cone-shaped construction has symbolic meaning as well as functionality, according to Linda Different-Cloud at the Big Sky Institute of Montana State University. When Native Americans congregated in a tepee, every person was seen as equal as there were no corners to hide in. The cone formation is also wind and rain resistant, and a tepee can be dissembled in a short period of time for travel. Traditional tepees were approximately 16 feet in diameter, unlike the smaller model you are constructing, which is ideal for school projects and historical dioramas.
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Stack 8 straight sticks approximately 1 by 14 inches in a bundle with the ends even. Wrap twine around one end of the bundle 1 inch from the end at least three times around the sticks. Tie a knot in the twine so the sticks are bound tightly.
Place a 24-inch square sheet of double-ply cardboard on your work surface. Identify the center of the cardboard. Arrange 20 toothpicks at the center point so they are all crossing over one another as if you were making a miniature fire pit. Use hot glue between the toothpicks to hold them in place.
Stack 10 toothpicks in a bundle with the sides even with each other. Squeeze hot glue in the middle of the bundle to hold them together. Place the bundle on one side of the faux fire pit approximately 3 inches away to represent extra firewood.
Cut one to three 2 by 3 inch rectangles out of a sheet of brown art paper. Arrange these rectangles lengthwise around the fire so one of the longer sides of each rectangle is next to the fire. Space the rectangles 5 inches from the fire sticks and attach these miniature beds to the cardboard base using hot glue.
Position the tepee frame over the top of the beds and fire pit with the miniature fire pit directly beneath the bundle of sticks. Spread the 8 sticks out at the base in a conical shape; pull the sticks apart carefully since forcing the cone too wide can cause it to break. Apply a small amount of hot glue beneath each stick to secure them to the cardboard base.
Measure the outside perimeter of the base of the tepee frame and around the bundle at the top using a measuring tape. Draw a circle using a compass as large as the perimeter on a sheet of brown art paper. Use brown, tan or crème canvas instead for a sturdier and more authentic tepee. Draw a smaller circle the size of the perimeter of the bundle directly in the center of the larger circle. Cut out the larger circle and then the smaller circle.
Cut along the radius of the circle. Measure down the radius 1 inch from the inner smaller circle. Punch holes spaced 1/2-inch apart down each side of the paper along the radius.
Position the tepee covering around the outside of the tepee frame. Apply hot glue between the cover and each pole.
Sew brown yarn through the top hole on the left side and across to the top hole on the right side. Insert the yarn into the second hole from the top on the left side and across to the corresponding hole on the right. Continue sewing the yarn in the holes until you have reached 2 inches from the bottom.
Fold the paper out and up in a triangle shape to create the doorway to the tepee. Fold the top unsewn portion of the paper downward to make the smoke flaps for the tepee.