Tabletop Tipi Model

Some Native Americans who lived on the Great Plains lived in tipis. These dwellings were typically made of animal hides stretched over wooden poles. Tipis can be disassembled and moved, making them an ideal dwelling for nomadic tribes. In fact, the word tipi comes from the Lakota word for dwelling – thipi.

Native American lore has always been incorporated into American Boy Scout and Cub Scout programs. Scouts who are doing a Native American themed meeting or activity can create a simple tipi model to get the idea of how these versatile dwellings are constructed. We made these at a Cub Scout training session and they were very easy.

Tabletop Tipi Model


  • 4 straight sticks, each about 12 inches in length
  • rubber band or string
  • ruler
  • pencil
  • cardboard or heavy card stock
  • 1 brown paper bag
  • scissors
  • markers or colored pencils


(See the diagrams at the bottom which go with the directions.)

  1. First, gather four straight sticks.
  2. Gather the sticks together and bind them together a few inches from the top with a rubber band or string.
  3. Spread out the sticks at the bottom to form the frame for the tipi.
  4. Measure the approximate size of one side of the tipi.
  5. Cut a triangle out of cardboard approximately the same size as the side of the tipi.
  6. Use the cardboard stencil to draw four adjacent triangles on the paper bag as shown below.
  7. Cut out the adjacent triangles all as one piece.
  8. Cut a door at the bottom of one of the sides.
  9. Decorate the paper if you want to.
  10. Crease the paper along the sides of the triangle and fold together.
  11. Snip just a little bit off of the top, so there is room for the sticks to poke through.
  12. Put the paper sides on top of the stick frame and tape together.

3 Responses to Tabletop Tipi Model

  1. Trena Freeman March 13, 2012 at 2:10 PM #

    I loved this Tabletop Tipi Model! I was searching for something our scouts could make themselves for American Indian Lore, and this was a hit! The directions are clear and concise…thank you very much for posting this! I wish I’d found this site back in September! It’s every den leaders’ dream!

  2. asdfghjkl December 6, 2012 at 8:13 PM #

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  3. leanne April 3, 2017 at 9:20 PM #

    this is a good idea but misses the mark in the unique way that the poles are laid into place to create the proper bonnet that allows the tight lay of the poles and the proper conical shape. It also doesn’t account for the importance of the cardinal directions when properly pitching a tipi. As with All things American Indian- there is significant symbolism in HOW things are done to remind us of our connection to the natural world.
    There is a 3 pole tripod that is the South, North and East (door) poles. The EAST or door tripod pole is placed over the two S and N poles and then lashed together usually with clove hitch. The tripod is then lifted and the N pole is then walked into the North position which locks the tripod poles into place. The rest of the poles are laid in between the tripods starting at the door in sets of 4- places counterclockwise door- towards N pole. Then 4 placed clockwise from door to South tripod pole then 2 placed counter clockwise N-S leave a gap for the cover lift pole and then the last two, One all the poles are in place then the rope is tied around them all 4 times starting from the north pole and going Sunwise or clockwise. The door always faces East- unless you are in mourning. It should be noted that the 4 poles signify the 4 directions, as do the 4 wraps or the rope. Important information- always enter and move clockwise, Most esteemed guest and elders are in the center back. Seating placement is important. refer to The Indian Tipi book by the Laubins for extensive information.

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