What Is the Difference Between a Tipi and a Wigwam?


Quick Answer

Wigwams were more permanent structures while tipis were temporary and easy to assemble and disassemble. Many Native Americans in the Northeastern United States lived in wigwams while Indians in the Great Plains lived in tipis. Wigwams and tipis could be sized to accommodate individuals or families.

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Full Answer

Native Americans made tipis using bent poles and birch bark. Indians in the Great Plains used a three- or four-pole frame, stretched a cover over the frame, and weighted it down with poles, stakes or stones. Tipis were conical in shape, featured fur pelts as doors and had a smoke hole for ventilation. Many tipis had a place of honor directly across from the door opening, which usually faced east. A tipi's impermanence suited many hunting and gathering tribes, because tipis were light and easy to carry once disassembled.

Indians made wigwams using wooden logs. They were dome-shaped and had one or two doors. Despite a wigwam's permanence, it could be partially disassembled. The Ojibwa tribe, for example, covered their wigwams with hide and then bark. During the winter, the tribe stripped the structure of its hide and took it with them to a new location. When they returned, they re-covered the frame if it still existed or rebuilt it.

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