In What Type of Homes Did the Plains Indians Live?

Updated April 17, 2017

Native American tribes of the U.S. Great Plains, also known as the Plains Indians, inhabited land stretching from the Mississippi River to Canada. The primary tribes of the Plains Indians included the Sioux, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Crow and Comanche; most of these tribes were known for hunting the buffalo. Some Plains Indian tribes were nomadic, so their homes needed to be easy to transport and build.


Many Plains Indian tribes used tepees (or tepees or tepees) as their primary shelter. These conical structures were constructed of long poles that formed a circle and the structure was wrapped in buffalo hides. The door of the tepees faced east toward the rising sun, and three to four families typically lived in each shelter.

Transporting Teepees

Plains Indians commonly travelled across the plains in search of buffalo, so their homes needed to come with them. When a tribe needed to move, they collapsed the tepee and carried it along with the rest of their belongings. The long poles needed to be transported with the tribes because there were not many tall trees growing in the plains. This type of structure was easy to build and could be taken down quickly if the buffalo herd moved.

Other Benefits

Tepees could stay cool in warm summer months, but also kept warm in the winter. The structure allowed for a fire to burn in the centre for heat and to cook. A hole could be kept open in the top of the tepee to allow smoke to escape. The outside of the tepees could also be decorated with religiously significant paintings.

Grass Huts

In the southern plains, such as the region that is now Texas, tribes did not travel in search of buffalo and instead built dome-shaped huts covered with grass. These structures were sometimes 40 feet tall. Prairie grass was insufficient as an insulator to keep people warm in northern areas.

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About the Author

Alane Michaelson began writing professionally in 2002. Her work has appeared in Michigan publications such as the "Detroit Free Press" and the "Flint Journal." Michaelson graduated from Oakland University in 2006, earning a Bachelor of Arts in journalism.