Let’s Look Back at the Native Americans
If you have ever studied the life and culture of Native America in school, you might have come across pictures of a certain kind of structure that they used as their house. You might have also seen images of portable conical tents made of canvas, cloth, or skins on a set of poles. These are known as teepees and were used by the North American Indians near the lakes and plains. Apart from teepees, some Native Americans also used wigwams for their shelter.
What is a Wigwam?
A wigwam is a round, domed hut used by a plethora of cultures in Native America. The tribes of northeastern America generally called these huts wigwams. On the other hand, the tribes of southwestern America referred to them as wickiups. These were also called ‘wetu’ by the Wampanoag tribe. What made the wigwam a perfect shelter during varying climates and terrible weather conditions are its curved surfaces.
Usually, a wigwam was used for a couple of months at a stretch. For instance, a tribe might create a wigwam that would last them all through the farming season. Tribes generally moved to temporary hunting camps at the onset of winters. As they had importable wigwams, they would leave them abandoned in the colder months. If the wigwam survived the winters, the tribals would reuse them. In case it got damaged, new wigwams were built in the upcoming season.
How was a Wigwam Made?
Native Americans started building a wigwam by using a frame of arched poles to create the structure of the wigwam. The poles were usually made of wood. The male members of the tribes were responsible for creating the wigwam frame. Firstly, they would look for young tree saplings with a height of around 10 to 15 feet. Then, they drew a big circle of approximately 10-15 diameter on the ground where the saplings were placed at an equal distance from one another.
The saplings were bent toward the middle for tying them together and giving the wigwam its arched frame. Then, the female tribal members used roofing material to cover the wooden frame. The material varied from region to region. While some wigwams were made from birchbark, others were a product of animal hides, mats, rushes, reeds, brushes, grass, and even cloth. A finished wigwam would be around 8 to 10 feet tall and created a little home. (See How Many Lashes Did Christ Received, And What Was The Reason For That Specific Number?)
Difference between a Wigwam and a Teepee
Even though some people use the terms ‘teepee’ and ‘wigwams’ interchangeably, both are very different from each other. They varied in structure, but their ways of construction and purposes were also different. Nomadic tribes and hunting groups used the teepees as a temporary dwelling. On the other hand, wigwams were meant to use them for longer periods of time. Teepees were simple and easy to build as they were meant to be portable.
Usually, few wooden poles and animal skins for covering were all that one needed to create a teepee. These could be easily assembled, disassembled, as well as reassembled anywhere within a few hours. However, it took days to make a wigwam. Unlike wigwams, teepees also had an opening towards the top as well as smoke flaps. These features enabled the teepee inhabitant to cook inside while controlling the quantity of smoke. The smoke flaps also helped keep the teepee inhabitants warmer as the teepees were made out of less insulation and cover than the more permanent wigwams.