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Living in a Teepee

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Image:Tracey Trumbull  Courtesy: The Appalachain Journal
Image:Tracey Trumbull Courtesy: The Appalachain Journal

Living Simply

Living simply took on a new meaning for me this week as I read an article in The Appalachian Journal about Justin Burke, an 18 year old that is living in a tepee on 36 acres of land. He doesn't have much, and apparently doesn't need much as his lives a couple of centuries behind the rest of us.

He does have a job, working 9 hours a day, and he works hard at the tepee, tanning hides by the old fashioned methods. He eats off the land, hunting, foraging and...uh...road kill. He wears deerskin that he has tanned himself, he created his own tools for scraping the hides from deer antlers. He trades and sells his work.

Most impressive of all? He can make a fire by rubbing two sticks together.

Thoreau & Homesteading

The desire to give up the trappings of modern society is not a new one by any means. Impressive that an 18 year old would not only think about it but actually do it and succeed.

When Henry David Thoreau left the comfort and social acceptability of "modern" society and moved into a small cabin on Walden Pond, he was looked at as a crazy person. He felt, though, that by giving up things he was gaining a deeper understanding of himself, his surroundings, and his spirituality. He said, in essence, that by living so close to, and so in tune with nature his senses were reawakened and he became more alive than he had ever been.

In the 1970s "homesteading" became the term that described the desire of so many to get back to the land. To get back to their roots, to live simply. Small shacks and shanties were built on rural properties and if powered at all, were powered by ingenuity;solar and water power. Mother Earth News became the Bible of the back to nature aficionado. Over the years many of the homesteads prospered and the hippies of 1970 became the property owners and politicians of 1990. Still very involved in environmental issues but often their homesteads had morphed into luxury accommodations that little resembled the simplicity they had desired.

Is the new interest in tepees a passing thing or a renewal of desire to get back to our simple lives?

Tepee Commune in Wales

A Home Away From Home

Tepees are also popping up in suburbia as people get back to nature in the comfort of their own yards. Tepees are being built in back yards as sort of a summerhouse, or covered patio type thing.

Modern tepees are made of canvas but in the same way as tepees were made by the plains Indians with buffalo hides for centuries. People who have them say that they are quiet places to get away from the stresses and trappings of our society, even if it is only a few feet away.

Letting Go

The reason for the popularity of a tepee may be in it's forced simplicity. You really can't improve it, by the very nature of it there is no permanence to it. You won't find yourself being tempted to tack pictures to the walls, change wallpaper or add on a room. When you choose a tepee you are, in essence, choosing a long term camping arrangement.

You can't wire it, plumb it, or polish it, and really dusting is not an issue. The more we have the more complex our lives become. For some people, this simplicity is just the life they are looking for.


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    • profile image

      scott lindh 

      6 years ago

      ahhh my dream...

      If only the Wife and Kids would follow me....


    • reversecharles profile image


      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Simplicity sounds great. We have far too many demands and too many possessions.

    • profile image

      yurt holidays 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for your hub. Yurts are also a great alternative abode.

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 

      8 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Great Hub! I agree that sometimes simplicity helps you gain & appreciate life even more....I support this young man for standing up for what he believes in & applaud his courage to face the world & its ways....

    • ahmadraza212 profile image


      8 years ago from Pakistan

      very nice information

    • Universal Laws profile image

      Universal Laws 

      9 years ago from UNIVERSE

      Great Hub and if you've never spent a night in a Teepe try it. Its not just the wonder of being under the stars and the fresh air but sleeping on the earth. Everything in your body, your energy, your emotions, your spirit all centre when you are sleeping directly on the earth. Also because its circular theres a real balancing energy, similar to living in a yurt. I love it and hope to do more of it in the future. One of the most awe inspiring sights is visiting the Teepe field at our glastonbury festival. Many Many Teepes standing proud in the moonlight.


    • profile image

      Latrelle Ross 

      9 years ago

      Actress Daryl Hannah lived in a teepee while she was building her home. She's an envirnonmentalist as well and she used it as an opportunity to set an example.

      This was a great hub ~ thanks for the research :)

    • Bruce Elkin profile image

      Bruce Elkin 

      9 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada

      I used to work at a big summer camp -- Camp Chief Hector, in the Canadian Rockies, near Banff -- where all the kids and counselors lived in teepees. Later, for 3 summers, while I was developing leadership programs, I lived in a teepee for part of the summer, tents in the wilds for the rest. I loved it. A couple of guys tried to live in a teepe throughout the year, but the cold Alberta winter got the best of them and they retreated indoors. But,more and more people are living in fancy, insulated, wood floored yurts. Cool!

    • Carolina Crete profile image

      Carolina Crete 

      10 years ago from Crete, Greece

      Ah this brings back memories of living in a tepee on a deserted beach in Crete for 3 months in Springtime. It was wonderful at the time - but as a short term experience.

    • jzt83 profile image


      10 years ago

      Impressive kido. I have a feeling this type of living arrangement will become more appealing to the masses as real estate prices skyrocket along with oil prices.

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      10 years ago from Sydney

      Keep supporting his ideas.

      One day you will be impressed on your return from him

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      My 15 year old wants to live in a tepee, whivch is why I found the article on justin burke so interesting

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      10 years ago from Sydney

      I do not believe I could do that.

      I have five sons and True statement.

      I am the wrong kind of person, to have five sons, I do not like hunting, fishing, shooting, or camping. Strangely enough all my sons have all those attribute in abundance. Son three is tramping though Chine right now for the next five weeks.

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 

      10 years ago from New Brunswick

      I appreciate simplicityand have been called a minimalist more than once.


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