How to Build a Wigwam Village for a School Project

Written by janet beal
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How to Build a Wigwam Village for a School Project
Wigwams were quick to build but difficult to move. (Tippi image by martintu from Fotolia.com)

A project is a fun way to help you make good sense of your reading and show your teacher how much you have learnt. When you study Native Americans, making a wigwam village lets you figure out some of the things Indians needed to think about when they created their own settlement. Unlike tepees, the homes of Plains Indians, the wigwams of Northeast Indians usually were built of bark and designed to be lived in for a season or longer. They were quick to build but difficult to move.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Reference materials about Northeastern Indians
  • 12x18-inch piece of foam core board
  • 1 package (2 dozen or more) 12-inch bamboo skewers
  • 4 sheets 8 1/2x11 copier or computer-printer weight paper (white or tan) or a big sheet of brown Kraft paper (for 8 circles)
  • Compass
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Markers or crayons
  • Crepe paper or tissue paper scraps
  • Clear tape, glue or glue stick

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Plan your foam-core land. Draw pencil circles where you want to put your wigwams--close together but with enough space to walk between them. Scribble in some lines to make a place for a big shared cooking fire. Pencil in a pond or river.

  2. 2

    Draw 5-inch circles on your white or brown paper, using your compass (you'll get two circles from each sheet of paper).

  3. 3

    Cut out the circles.

  4. 4

    Draw a straight line from the centre compass point to the edge of each circle; pretend that the line you cut points to 6:00 on a clock. Make short (1-inch) cuts into the circle from the centre point, at 9:00, 12:00 and 3:00.

  5. 5

    Cut two skewers in half.

  6. 6

    Tape or glue three half skewers to the sides of each circle, letting half of each stick hang over the circle rim and half an inch of the stick poke through the small cuts you made at the centre. You will have a stick at 9:00, 12:00 and 3:00, with no stick at 6:00, where you cut the straight line. Let the glue dry.

  7. 7

    Tape or glue the overlap.

  8. 8

    Place each cone on one of your pencil circles; use a whole skewer to poke holes for your wigwam poles and push them into the foam-core. If they don't want to stay up, put a drop of glue in each hole. Hold your wigwam poles in the glued holes for a minute.

  9. 9

    Use glue to cover your finished wigwam shapes with scraps of crepe paper to look like sheets of bark. Use a different colour of crepe paper to make blankets to cover the doorways.

  10. 10

    Cut a few more skewers in shorter pieces. Make a big cooking fire out of them and some scraps of paper. You also can make a woodpile.

Tips and warnings

  • Cut the skewers shorter (only 5 inches long) if you want a round-top wigwam. Let sticks hang 1 inch over the outside edge of the circle only. You can then fold over the small cut edges you made at the top for a rounder shape.
  • Think like a Native American before you set up your finished wigwams. During wind or storms, all the doors of the wigwams faced the same way, to keep out the bad weather. If the weather was nice, all the doors might face toward the big cooking fire in the middle. You decide what kind of weather you want to have on your land, so you can explain how you set up your project.
  • You can use more skewers and paper to build trees, because Northeast Indians often lived in wooded areas.
  • If your school materials don't have a lot of good pictures, go to the library or find more pictures on the internet. The more you know, the more you can show.

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