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The Métis in Western Canada: O-Tee-Paym-Soo-Wuk

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The BeginningsThe People and Their CommunitiesCulture and Lifeways
Tent Tepee

A variety of tents and tepee forms were available to the Métis people. The Aboriginal tribes around north shore of the Great Lakes used a bark wigwam. This was constructed by forming a cone of poles, and then wrapping the cone with large pieces of bark. The resulting structure was smaller than the hide tepee of the plains. That structure was constructed with fewer poles, and was more carefully structured. 

The tepee is based on the triangle. A trio of poles were tied together at the top, lifted erect and then spread into a triangle. The next pole put up was inserted into the tie, and then others, up to nine or twelve, depending on the size, were laid into the angles between the first poles. The tepee cover was tied by one corner to the top of the last pole and pulled around into place. A single Tepee could be large enough to house up to twelve people, while a number tepee covers could be used to create a communal space that could hold hundreds of people for feasts and other community events.

When the Métis people moved into the buffalo hunting lifestyle, they used tepees when they were travelling. They also had access to canvas tents brought in by the Europeans. These came in various configurations, including the army tent with the v-shaped roof and short walls. These tents were sometimes modified by having a half-circle of extra material on the back wall, forming a bell. This could be used for storage or additional room.

Over time, a standard tent evolved which was used on trap-lines and while travelling in the north. Adapted from the army tent, it was constructed to allow used of a small stove inside, with a chimney hole cut in the back wall. It is still available and can be purchased by asking simply for the trapper’s tent.

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