How To Make Cheyenne Teepees

Photo of Indian teepee

The plains Indians, including the Cheyenne, were hunting nomads. To support their lifestyle, they created the teepee. Teepees were lightweight, durable, easy to take down, and very portable. To make your own teepee, you'll need canvas, a sewing machine, thread, poles measuring 14 to 16 feet, rope, tent stakes, a grommet tool and grommets, and a ladder.

To make a teepee measuring 12 feet in circumference, you need 24 yards of canvas treated for outdoor use. The poles should be tapered and made from solid wood. You'll need at least 14 poles.

First, lay your poles out on the ground in a circular pattern, placing the narrower ends toward the top. Select your three strongest poles; using a length of rope measuring 32 feet long, tie these poles together at their tops. Pull the poles upward into a tripod position, with the rope end hanging inside the middle. Your bottom diameter will be about 32 feet.

Raise the other poles one at a time, placing them in a circular pattern around the standing poles. Position them evenly to make your frame. Using the loose end of the rope, walk around the teepee in a clockwise direction. Tighten the rope by jerking as you walk around, which tightens the poles at the top.

Next, measure the circumference at the top, where the poles are tied. Divide this number by six and add two or three inches. Make a note of these measurements, because this will make the fabric pattern. Cut six pieces of canvas in triangles. The bottom of each is 64 inches wide, tapering down to the measurements you made. Sew them together, forming one long piece of material. Do not sew it into a cone shape.

Sew grommets into the edges of the material to make a door. The grommets will be 8 inches from the top and bottom, then about two feet apart thereafter. Make sure the grommets on the two pieces line up, similar to matching buttons and button holes.

Cut pieces of canvas into strips measuring 22 inches long and 1 inch wide. These will be your door ties.

Raise your cover onto the poles. It may require a little readjusting, but if the measurements were correct, it should fit. Thread your ties through the grommets, pulling tight.

Finally, you can decorate your teepee. Traditional teepee designs are painted in bright colors, and the teepees themselves often have feathers hanging from the top.


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