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.
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.