THE 12-FOOT TEEPEE

BLACK & WHITE SUNDAY: STRUCTURE


In 2007, I built a 12-foot teepee. It’s the smallest “full-size” teepee. I would have built a bigger one, but we didn’t have enough flat ground on which to build it. As it is, we had to create a flat place to stand the teepee. We build a platform of railroad planks, sand and earth. There was a lot of sweating and heaving going on for several weeks before we could even start putting the teepee up.

I bought the teepee — plain and unadorned — from Nomadics Tipi, a wonderful company that has helped construct teepees all over the world. If you have time, take a look at their site. They have a wonderful collection of pictures from everywhere, literally, on earth.

Building the platform on which to stand the teepee was a lot of work … all of which was done by Garry and Owen. When that piece was done, I had to make poles. You can buy poles and if you buy them, they are smooth and straight and pretty easy to use. They are also wildly expensive. Not the poles. The cost for bringing poles from where they grow — mostly in the Pacific northwest — to wherever you live would have cost around $1000. And that was just the delivery.

The teepee was my favorite place to be on a snowy afternoon.

I couldn’t do that, so I made the poles myself. Owen and I went into the woods and chose a couple of dozen young hardwood trees that weren’t too crooked. After that, me and my draw knives peeled the bark and cut all the little pieces off the poles. After which I sanded the poles. It took a long time and although I got better at it over time, it was still a lot of work.

I painted the door from a design I found. It’s not a very good rendition, but it was as good as I could do. The interior design were the hand-prints of our family, forming a friendship ring.

Nothing makes you respect the work done by supposedly primitive people more than trying to do the same thing yourself. It isn’t all that primitive and it definitely isn’t easy!

I wrote a book based on the building of the teepee. You can find it on Amazon as “The 12-Foot Teepee” by Marilyn Armstrong.

The teepee could not last forever, but its name lives on … and that is why the name of my blog is teepee12.com.Β 

31 thoughts on “THE 12-FOOT TEEPEE

  1. I bet you’re aware of the book ‘Two Little Savages’ by E.T. Seton. ? After my brothers, Bruce and Doug, read it, they too built a TeePee. It was cozy in there – to my surprise. Brother Richard and I tried to ‘one up’ them by building a fort out of railroad ties. When tried to sleep in there it was a fail. It stunk like creosote – and the ‘skeeters’ were getting in. We didn’t last the night.

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  2. You really should include those pics in your book Spike! πŸ˜‰

    It looks fantastic – as it should considering the effort that went into it πŸ™‚

    love.

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  3. Pingback: BLACK & WHITE SUNDAY: STRUCTURE | Lost in Translation

  4. Marilyn, I am so impressed. I am actually mind-blown. You made a structure (not for this challenge, but still) and you took fabulous photos of it, and you shared it with me! It does not look easy to me. Really wonderful achievement. I love the penultimate photo, the one with a slight sepia tone. Gorgeous composition!

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    • I truly loved my teepee. My heart was in that structure. It seemed to fit you premise and it was nice to dig back into the original photos and see what I could find. Thanks, Paula, for giving me this opportunity!

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  5. Loved the post, Marilyn. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your wonderful memoir, “The 12-Foot Teepee; and highly recommend it to any of your readers who have not yet had the chance to read it. As for me, I know I’ll be revisiting it again one of these days and was delighted to reminisce a bit through your post! πŸ™‚ xo

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    • Every now and again, I get sentimental about my teepee. I miss it. I know i’m not going to build another one. I barely got that one completed … but it was “my place.” I’m glad you enjoyed the book πŸ˜€ I loved yours — the long and the short, both — too!

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  6. What a fabulous teepee. It must be a wonderful space to sit in. I really like the design you painted on the door and the fact that you sourced the poles yourself. It must have being really difficult to build.

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    • The building is easy if you have good instructions — which we had. The poles were difficult, especially in the beginning because I’d never done anything like it before. I loved hand building the poles, but they were not straight like proper poles so the teepee was never as tightly fitted as it should have been which may have shortened its life. Although not by much. It’s just wood and canvas and this is a rainy climate. Teepees were designed for dryer areas — deserts, or high desert, like the Dakotas. They’re fine in snow, but rain is hard on canvas, even with anti-mold stuff imbued in the fabric.

      I loved it. I don’t think any place I’ve ever been was as peaceful as the teepee. And I don’t think it was only because I built it. I have heard this from everyone who has spent time in a teepee. There is something about them that has a very comforting, relaxing feel.

      I don’t sleep well, but I could always sleep in the teepee. And I never minded being in there and doing nothing. The ONLY place I’ve ever done nothing and liked it πŸ™‚ I always tell people if they have room to put one up, it’s a great thing to do. The company I linked in the post are wonderful and will help you find the right teepee for wherever you live.

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      • I’ve found teepees to be wonderful places to spend time in too. I like your comment that it was a place where you could truly do nothing.
        I live in a wet climate over here in Australia and am currently renting so I’m not really in a position to get one at present. I have created a Native American Medicine Wheel in my backyard though. I find that it very relaxing to sit in and it to is a place where it’s possible to do nothing and feel completely at ease doing it. πŸ™‚

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