Teepee Depot

I have a Cherokee great-great-great-great grandmother. I can’t prove she was Cherokee. That’s pretty hard to do. I was going to do the DNA test at Ancestry.com to check it out but now there are reports that Indian bloodline won’t show up for all sorts of technical reasons that I’m not sure I understand.

Nevertheless, I’ve always been intrigued by Native American dolls, intensified by discovering ancestral ties to the Cherokees.

Imagine my delight when a granddaughter requested the American Girl doll, Kaya from the Nes Perce tribe. She’s very authentically dressed with wonderful accessories to boot…a horse, a baby doll on a cradle board, a ceremonial outfit…and a tipi/teepee.

Kaya arrived just in time for her birthday party, which featured a teepee cake, made by the birthday girl and her mom!! How cool is that?!

Teepee cake

It was only natural, of course, that Kaya would need something to live in. Right? Only this Meemaw was NOT ready to spend $125 for a deerskin house.

What to do? What to do?

Immediate research was promptly launched. The internet yielded several moms/grannies who also thought there had to be a better/cheaper way to shelter Kaya. A couple of mommy blogs even gave some directions.

I combined everything I saw and read and came up with a plan, using fake leather material, leather strapping, pheasant feathers (of which I have loads of), some fake turquoise and, with a lot of help from my mom…we came up with a pretty good facsimile of the catalog teepee.

Tipis R Us

We began with 2-1″ styroboards, hot glued together at the longest edges for a 3′ X 3′ board. I drew a circle using the very technical method of tying a pencil on one end of a string and holding the other end down in the center of the board. Then I took a box cutter and cut the board out.

We used 8-3′ wood dowels and pushed them down into the styro in equal increments, leaving a larger space between 2 dowels to be used as the entrance. Squirt hot glue down into and around each dowel. We used the leather strapping to weave around and tie the dowels together at the top, leaving about 3-4″ at the top of the dowels.

I had some acrylic paint on hand and mixed up some green and brown and haphazardly painted the top of the board. It took about 30 minutes to dry.

Then we cut a circle (which should have been a half-circle) of fake suede/leather material that I found at Hobby Lobby. You need an extra pair of hands at this point…Mother held the material over each dowel as I poked holes through the material on each side of the dowels and tied each dowel to the “tent”.



Once all of the material was secured, we trimmed the excess material so there was just enough to use to close the entrance.

Next, I used a cake decorating technique where you wrap the edge of the cake board with ribbon to hide the edges. Just run a glue stick around the edge and push the ribbon into it, cut, fold under one end and glue.

The teepee was the granddaughter’s Christmas gift, along with the suede doll and cradleboard…and a feather headpiece. She was thrilled and the other older granddaughter announced that she really, really liked Kaya.

Good thing I saved the left-overs!!

Final cost was about $40 with plenty of the materials to make another teepee, clothing, jewelry and whatever else we come up with. Next up…a ceremonial dress like this:

Finished Tipi



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9 Responses to Teepee Depot

  1. Kitty says:

    You’re such a good and generous grandmawmie. We may be cousins as well as kindred spirits. Yep, my great great grandparent was also Cherokee. The world gets smaller and smaller.


    • The Queen says:

      Kindred spirit cousins…works for me!!

      The only evidence I have so far is piece written by another distant cousin years ago. Haven’t figured out how to verify the info yet. Ancestry is good for many things, mainly to give you clues. Sometimes you have to do the research the old fashioned way…


  2. Fancy Nancy says:

    What a great teepee! So fun and rewarding to DIY an expensive item! The birthday girl (who looks just like you!) seems thrilled! AND I know you treasured the time working with your mom on a project! Win/win!


  3. Carol D says:

    Debbie, you and your mom make a great creative team. This is marvelous and so authentic looking! Super job.


    • The Queen says:

      Big Boss was offered a coaching position in Brownwood in 77 and 78…she had it all figured out. She would make bridal dresses and I could do the cakes and flowers. Corner the market so to speak!! Thanks!


  4. I have Cherokee in my blood line as well. My granddad lived in Dallas many years ago. He died the year before I was born so I never met him. He was born in Tennessee. This is where the Cherokee comes in; however, there was Cherokee on my mom’s side as well. They also were from Tennessee. I recently found out through Ancestry.com that my hubby has Chickasaw wayyyyyy back in his family line.


  5. Pingback: The Continuing Adventures of Kaya, the Nez Perce American D | Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Country Life

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