How to Build a Wigwam Project

Updated July 20, 2017

Wigwams are houses built and used by various Native American tribes in woodland areas. A typical wigwam is a small, dome-shaped structure made from a wooden frame covered with bark or cattail mats. Building a wigwam takes some effort but is a great way to learn about both construction and history.

Find a good place to build your wigwam. Make sure the ground is flat and firm enough to hold the wigwam poles, but not so hard that you can't bore holes to a depth of at least 6 inches.

Remove any vegetation from the area. Drive a stake into the centre of the area and attach a rope or string, the length of which is the radius of your wigwam (7 feet is a good length). Keeping the string tight, draw a circle to lay out the base of your wigwam.

Calculate the circumference of your circle by multiplying pi times two times the circle's radius. About sixteen holes will be ideal, but this number can change based on preference and available materials. Divide the circle's circumference by the number of poles to find the distance between each pole. Mark this distance on your rope and lay out the position of each pole. Use a stake to bore holes around the base of your wigwam to a depth of at least 6 inches and a width of about 2 inches.

Make sure you have permission and cut down about 25 straight, flexible saplings with a base width of about 2 inches and a length of about 12 feet. Use a knife to remove any branches and strip the saplings of bark. Sharpen the base of each sapling so it will fit into the holes you have made.

Picture an imaginary tic-tac-toe grid drawn across your circle, the centre square of which is in the middle of the circle. Place one sapling at each point where the grid intersects with the circle (eight total). Bend two opposite saplings together and use rope to attach them in two places about 3 inches from each end. Repeat this process for the other six saplings.

Position a sapling in each remaining hole. Fasten each sapling to its opposite in the same manner. Strengthen the wigwam by fastening each sapling to every sapling it crosses.

Fasten two or three saplings together, end to end, so that they can wrap all the way around your wigwam. Leaving a space for the entry, fasten these saplings around the wigwam at a height of about 2 or 3 feet. Attach two similar hoops to the wigwam, each about 2 feet above the previous. Fasten the saplings to each other whenever they overlap.

Cover the wigwam. Sheets of bark work well and are easy enough to find. Drill holes in the bark and fasten them to the horizontal hoops. You can also use canvas or cattail mats for a covering. Be sure to leave an opening so you can enter the wigwam!

Things You'll Need

  • Rope
  • Hammer
  • Wooden stake
  • 25 saplings
  • Tree bark
  • Knife
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About the Author

Scott Kratochvil is a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He holds a Bachelor's of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing and plans to graduate in May with an M.A. in English. He started writing professionally in 2009 and has been published at eHow.