How to Make a Plains Native American Teepee Design

Updated April 17, 2017

The tepees of the North American Plains Indians are roomy dwellings that can accommodate a fire, allowing them to stay warm in winter and cool in summer. Traditional tepees were made of sticks and animal skins that had been painted with designs. Today's tepees are made of canvas, but they can still be decorated with native patterns.

Cut corners off canvas to form a semicircle 30 feet long and 15 feet wide. Spread canvas out on a flat dry area.

Pencil your design on the canvas. Traditional Plains Indians tepees feature geometric designs, like circles, lines and triangles, as well as pictures of plants, animals and constellations. Animal images used for tepee decoration include bison, deer, crows, wolves, grizzly bears, antelope, turtles and bulls.

Wet canvas lightly with sponge. This is to stop canvas from absorbing too much paint.

Paint the designs on the tepee and allow it to dry. Assemble the finished tepee.

Things You'll Need

  • 15-foot by 30-foot piece of 227gr canvas
  • Pencil
  • Sponge
  • Oil paints or house paints in bright colours as well as brown and black
  • Paintbrushes
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About the Author

Matthew Huntington has been writing travel articles since 2002. His pieces have appeared in "National Geographic Traveler," "American Way" and "The Miami Herald." Huntington speaks fluent Spanish and has lived in many parts of Latin America, including Ecuador, Guatemala and Puerto Rico. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in European studies from Brigham Young University.