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Difference Between Wigwam and Tipi/Teepee

Wigwam vs Tipi/Teepee

A wigwam and a tipi, also spelled teepee, are two different dome-shaped dwellings used by Native Americans. They are different in construction, structure, materials used, technique used, and are used as dwellings by Native Americans of different regions.

Wigwams are used by the Native Americans of the Northeast as a dwelling. It is a conical, dome-shaped, and round structure. Many different Native Americans of the Northeast use it, and its curved surface is an ideal structure for providing shelter in any condition. The wigwams also refer to seasonal structures built temporarily. However, in reference to the Native Americans, they are used by cultures which are more permanent. These structures have a frame which is made by arched poles. The poles are usually wooden. These frames are then covered with roofing material. Roofing materials can be: grass, rushes, brush, reeds, bark, cloth, hides of animals, mats, etc. The construction details and the materials used vary from culture to culture and depend upon the availability of the material used.

Wigwams are not very portable because of the materials used. Tipis, however, are much more portable. The male members of the family are traditionally responsible for putting up the frames of the wigwam. Young saplings of trees, 10-15 feet long, were used to form the frame of the wigwam. A circle was drawn on the ground whose diameter varied from 10-16 feet. Saplings were bent and placed on the circle drawn on the ground. The tallest sapling stays in the center while the shorter ones form arches. All the saplings are then tied together to give support to the wigwam frame. Finally, roofing material is placed on the frame to cover the wigwam. The Northeastern wigwam’s curved surface allows it to protect against the worst weather conditions.

Tipi is used by Native Americans living in the Great Plains. They are dwellings used by nomadic tribes or by sedentary tribes which are hunting. These dwellings are temporary dwellings as compared to the wigwam. They are easier to make and more portable. They can be easily disassembled and easily constructed when moving away from somewhere or settling down somewhere and take less time to construct than a wigwam. Tipis are traditionally made by using animal skin and wooden poles. Their conical shape was very effective in protecting against all kinds of weather.

Tipis were made of a wooden frame and covered with buffalo skin. A cloth or skin lining was used, and the door had bison or calf skin. Tipi covers were made of canvas or bison hide sewn together and made a door by trimming it. The main two things which distinguished the tipis from a wigwam and other structures are the smoke flaps and the opening at the top. The opening at the top and the smoke flaps allows the dwellers to cook inside and control the smoke. They can have an open fire inside, and it helped to keep them warm and insulated inside the tipis.


1.Wigwams are used by Native Americans of the American Northeast; tipis are used by the Native Americans of the Great Plains.
2.Wigwams are more permanent structures. They are made of a wooden frame, and the roofing material varies from grass, rushes, brush, reeds, bark, cloth, hides of animals, mats, etc. Tipis are used by nomadic tribes and other tribes which have gone hunting because they are more of a temporary dwelling.
3.Wigwams take more time to build; tipis are easily disassembled and reconstructed.
4.Tipis have smoke flaps and a top opening which is not found in any other dwelling structure.

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