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Teepee vs. Wigwam — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on September 3, 2023
A teepee is a conical tent traditionally used by the nomadic Plains Indians, while a wigwam is a domed dwelling used by sedentary Eastern Woodland tribes.
Teepee vs. Wigwam — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Teepee and Wigwam

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Key Differences

Both the teepee and the wigwam are traditional Native American structures. They were designed for living, gatherings, and ceremonies, but each served distinct tribes with different lifestyles. While the two may be confused frequently, understanding their unique characteristics provides clarity on their uses.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 03, 2023
The teepee is notably characterized by its conical shape, made with long poles that converge at the top. This structure is covered with animal hides, traditionally bison, to provide protection from the elements. Teepees were primarily used by the Plains Indians, a group known for their nomadic lifestyle. This nomadic nature necessitated the design of the teepee; its conical shape allows for efficient wind resistance and its portability made it ideal for tribes that moved frequently.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 03, 2023
In contrast, the wigwam is a more permanent structure. Unlike the pointed top of a teepee, wigwams have a rounded, dome-like shape. They were constructed using a frame of bent poles, covered with woven mats or bark, particularly birch bark. The wigwam was mainly used by the tribes of the Eastern Woodlands. These tribes were more sedentary, allowing them to build structures that weren't designed to be moved frequently.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 03, 2023
The choice between a teepee and a wigwam was not merely architectural but stemmed from the specific needs and lifestyles of the tribes. While the Plains Indians needed a portable home for their travels, Eastern Woodland tribes, with their more settled lifestyles, found the wigwam to be more suitable.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 03, 2023

Comparison Chart

Shape

Conical
Domed
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Material

Typically made with animal hides, especially bison.
Made with woven mats or bark, often birch bark.
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Associated Tribes

Used by nomadic Plains Indians.
Used by sedentary Eastern Woodland tribes.
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Purpose of Design

Designed for portability due to the nomadic nature of Plains tribes.
Designed for permanence, suiting the sedentary nature of its users.
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Entrance Feature

Usually features a front flap entrance.
Typically has a door and sometimes a tunnel-like entrance.
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Compare with Definitions

Teepee

A portable dwelling used traditionally by Plains Indians.
Traveling across the land, they would set up a teepee for shelter each night.
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Sep 03, 2023

Wigwam

A semi-permanent domed dwelling made of woven materials or bark.
The forest clearing revealed a wigwam, signaling the presence of a tribe.
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Sep 03, 2023

Teepee

A symbol of Native American culture and heritage.
The museum had a teepee on display to educate visitors about Plains Indian life.
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Sep 03, 2023

Wigwam

A home traditionally used by Eastern Woodland tribes.
The village consisted of several wigwams, each decorated with tribal symbols.
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Sep 03, 2023

Teepee

A conical tent made from animal hides and wooden poles.
The teepee stood tall against the vast plains, a testament to its durable design.
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Sep 03, 2023

Wigwam

A representation of sedentary Native American life.
Students built a wigwam as part of their project on Native American cultures.
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Sep 03, 2023

Teepee

A structure designed for efficient resistance against strong winds.
The conical shape of the teepee made it stand firm even in strong gusts.
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Sep 03, 2023

Wigwam

A structure made by bending and securing flexible rods, covered with bark or woven material.
The wigwam was insulated with layers of birch bark, keeping it warm inside.
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Sep 03, 2023

Teepee

An iconic representation of nomadic life in Native American history.
Paintings of the era often depicted the teepee amidst the vastness of the plains.
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Sep 03, 2023

Wigwam

A symbol of Eastern Woodland tribal architecture and lifestyle.
The cultural festival showcased a traditional wigwam, highlighting its unique construction.
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Sep 03, 2023

Teepee

Variant of tepee.
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May 02, 2018

Wigwam

A wigwam, wickiup, wetu, or wiigiwaam in the Ojibwe language, is a semi-permanent domed dwelling formerly used by certain Native American tribes and First Nations people. They are still used for ceremonial events.
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May 02, 2018

Teepee

A cone-shaped tent traditionally used by many native peoples of the Great Plains of North America.
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May 02, 2018

Wigwam

A dome-shaped hut or tent made by fastening mats, skins, or bark over a framework of poles (as used formerly by some North American Indian peoples).
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May 02, 2018

Teepee

A conical formation of small flammable sticks leaning on each other, in roughly the shape of an Indian teepee, built over smaller tinder such as cotton or leaves.
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May 02, 2018

Wigwam

A Native American dwelling commonly having an arched or conical framework overlaid with bark, hides, or mats.
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Teepee

Alternative form of TP
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May 02, 2018

Wigwam

A dwelling having an arched framework overlaid with bark, hides, or mats, used by Native Americans in the northeastern United States.
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May 02, 2018

Teepee

A native American tent; usually of conical shape
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May 02, 2018

Wigwam

Any more or less similar dwelling used by indigenous people in other parts of the world.
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May 02, 2018

Wigwam

(transitive) To dry (flax or straw) by standing it outside in the shape of a wigwam.
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Wigwam

An Indian cabin or hut, usually of a conical form, and made of a framework of poles covered with hides, bark, or mats; - called also tepee.
Very spacious was the wigwam,Made of deerskin dressed and whitened,With the gods of the DacotahsDrawn and painted on its curtains.
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May 02, 2018

Wigwam

A native American lodge frequently having an oval shape and covered with bark or hides
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Common Curiosities

And wigwams?

Wigwams were primarily used by the sedentary tribes of the Eastern Woodlands.
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What material covers a teepee?

A teepee is typically covered with animal hides, especially bison.
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Are teepees designed for long-term residence?

No, teepees are designed for portability to suit the nomadic lifestyle of Plains tribes.
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Sep 03, 2023

How about a wigwam?

A wigwam is covered with woven mats or bark, often birch bark.
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Sep 03, 2023

What's the shape of a wigwam?

A wigwam has a rounded, dome-like shape.
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Which tribes traditionally used teepees?

Teepees were traditionally used by nomadic Plains Indians.
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Sep 03, 2023

Are wigwams easily moved?

No, wigwams are more permanent structures designed for longer-term residence.
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Sep 03, 2023

Are teepees and wigwams used solely for residential purposes?

Traditionally, while both served as dwellings, they were also used for gatherings, ceremonies, and other community functions.
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Sep 03, 2023

Are the terms "teepee" and "wigwam" interchangeable?

No, while both are Native American structures, a teepee is conical and portable, whereas a wigwam is dome-shaped and more permanent.
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Sep 03, 2023

Why are teepees efficient against winds?

The conical shape of the teepee allows for wind resistance, making them sturdy in windy conditions.
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Sep 03, 2023

How is the entrance of a wigwam designed?

A wigwam typically has a door and can sometimes have a tunnel-like entrance.
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Sep 03, 2023

Are teepees made with wooden poles?

Yes, teepees are constructed using long wooden poles that converge at the top.
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Sep 03, 2023

What materials form the framework of a wigwam?

A wigwam is made using a frame of bent poles, which are then covered with woven materials or bark.
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Sep 03, 2023

What shape is a teepee?

A teepee is conically shaped.
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Can you find teepees and wigwams today?

Yes, both teepees and wigwams can be found in cultural exhibits, festivals, and some tribal areas as representations of history.
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Sep 03, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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