How to Build a Wigwam

The wigwam was a shelter constructed by many Native American peoples in the eastern part of North America.


Up next in Wilderness Survival Skills (40 videos)

Conquer the wilderness with the survival tips in these Howcast videos. You'll learn how to make fire, build a shelter, boil water with hot stones, make a bow and arrow, avoid poison ivy, purify water, track animals, make a solar still, tan a hide, sharpen a jackknife, avoid a snakebite, tell directions without a compass, and much more.

You Will Need

  • 25-30 green tree saplings
  • Knife
  • Cord or rope
  • Bark


  1. Step 1

    Select a site

    Select a site for the wigwam. Use a clearing or clear an area yourself.

  2. The ground should be soft enough to accommodate the ends of tree saplings.

  3. Step 2

    Stretch the saplings

    Find 25 to 30 green tree saplings that are 10 to 15 feet long. Use your knife to cut points at their ends so they will go into the ground easily.

  4. Step 3

    Draw a circle on the ground

    Scratch out a 10-foot circle on the ground and place the pointed ends of the bent saplings into the ground along the circle. Situate the saplings so that they make uniform arches, all bowed outward.

  5. Step 4

    Wrap a girdle around the structure

    Wrap a second set of saplings around the structure as a girdle for support.

  6. Step 5

    Tie the saplings

    Tie the two sets of saplings together with lengths of cord, leaving an opening for the entrance.

  7. Step 6

    Cover the structure

    Cover the structure with sheets of bark from fallen trees, leaving a smoke hole in the roof. Now move in.

  8. The wigwams used by Native Americans were as safe and warm as any shelters built by early American colonists.