The typical dwelling of the Plains tribes is the tepee, or Tipi. Tepee is a Sioux word: TI (dwelling) and PI (used for). The tepee is considered the most perfect tent and has been copied in many forms. Originally the Indians made their tepees of buffalo hides, but since the destruction of the buffalo herds by the white man, domestic cow hides have been used, as well as canvas. New buffalo-hide tepee covers were made every spring. The size of the tepee depended somewhat on the number of horses the tribe or family had, because it required several horses to transport a large tepee. The poles were made of lodge pole pine, cedar, spruce, or any other straight tree. Flexible poles were not used. The poles averaged about 25 feet in length and tapered from 4 to 1 inch in diameter.
In warm weather the lower part of the tepee was raised up on the poles to allow the breeze to blow through. In cold weather the space around was packed with sod to hold it down tightly and to keep out the snow and drafts.
When the tepee was new it was nearly white. But by spring, the smoke and the weather had darkened it at the top and the skins became quite transparent. At night the campfires made the tepees look like large Japanese lanterns.
On the Great Plains the wind is usually from the west and for that reason the tepees were set up with the smoke hole facing the east. The flaps, or smoke hole ears, as they are called, were used to control the drafts and to keep the wind from blowing down the smoke hole. In case of a storm they could be lapped over to close the smoke hole completely.
Each tepee had a dew cloth. The dew cloth is a cloth tied on poles along the inside of the tepee. Its decorations brighten the interior of an Indian home. What is more important, it keeps water from running down the poles in wet weather, and it prevents drafts from blowing across the tepee. The space between the dew cloth and the tent walls also acts as an air passage to carry smoke upward to the smoke flaps.
Indian Tepee Liner
Tepee liners are attached to the interior perimeter of the tepee and hang down vertically to the ground creating a insulating barrier plus natural air flow.
Made from standard 10 oz. single fill, treated cotton canvas. The purpose of the tepee liner is to insulate the tepee by creating a 3" to 4" dead air space between
the liner and the outside tepee cover. The liner also helps circulate fresh air into the tepee by causing an updraft of air behind the outside tepee liner. This
draft of air will also help move the smoke out of the tepee when a center fire is used.