Darlene Foster's Blog

The World’s Largest Tepee

Posted on: September 28, 2013


It is hard to miss this towering edifice as you drive through Medicine Hat, Alberta on the Trans-Canada Highway. Medicine Hat is my home town and I have driven past this landmark many times. This summer my trusty assistant, (also known as my 12 year-old grandson) and I decided to drive up to the Tepee and have a better look. I have no idea why I had not done this much sooner.


Originally constructed for the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics, the Saamis Tepee is a tribute to Canada’s native heritage. The colours of the structure are symbolic, white for purity, red for the rising and setting sun and blue for the flowing river. There are ten round story-boards built into the tepee depicting native culture and history. It is the World’s Tallest Teepee standing over 20 stories high, weighing 200 tonnes and capable of withstanding 150 mph winds. It was brought to Medicine Hat by local businessman Rick Filanti in 1991.


We were both fascinated by the storyboards inside the Tepee, all hand painted by various First Nations and Metis artists.


This one, The Legend: How Medicine Hat Got Its Name, by Joseph Hind Bull, depicts one of the legends of how Medicine Hat got its name,


This one, called Circle of Unity-Multiculturalism by Nona Foster. portrays the different races  by different coloured hands.


This one called, The Plains Indians, by Manybears, shows the relationship between man and nature’s survival.


This storyboard represents Treaty 7, signed at Blackfoot Crossing in 1877, painted by Henry Standingalone.


The storyboard on the left, The Blackfoot Confederacy, by Henry Standingalone, and the one of the right, Plains Cree Way of Life, by Nona Foster, depict the two major groups that populated the area and the things that were important to each.

Each storyboard comes with a detailed interpretation by the artist and represents a variety of influences and history of the First Nations heritage.

There was something magical about standing inside the large Tepee on a hot, sunny, prairie day. It made me realize what a rich cultural heritage my country has. I used to think of it as a young country with not much history. I realize how wrong I was.

23 Responses to "The World’s Largest Tepee"

How interesting and beautiful! It’s so important to understand where we come from and why we are what we are today! It is also very sad to know that a whole way of life has disappeared, and I believe it was a good one, as the Native Americans, or First Nations, really cared about their surroundings, other animals and their habitat and environment.

Thanks for the comment. I agree and we can learn so much from the values and traditions of the original inhabitants of our land.

Really magnificent!

Up close, I was able to experience the magnificence of the tepee.

That is ONE BIG TEPEE! 😀 Canada does have cool stuff! 🙂

You must come for a visit one day! You woudl love it.

Do I sense research? Thanks for this. How great that you and your grandson shared this experience.

This was part of my research this summer and it was so great to be able to do it with my grandson. He proved to be an awesome assistant.

Thanks, Darlene, you’ve reminded us that we really must go on another Great Canadian road trip. It’s been so long, and we missed so much on earlier trips.

There is so much to see and do in Canada. I am guilty of not exploring my own country. I’ve been to Dubai but not to the Maritime provinces…

Its a beautifully designed structure Darlene – I love the clean lines and the clear colours. I’m glad you included photos with a person in them so that the scale can be properly appreciated. It must be very well maintained considering it is exposed to the elements but still looks so pristine. The artwork on the storyboards is stunning!

I’m pleased you enjoyed a bit of history from my corner of the world. It is very well maintained as the city is very proud of it. First Nation’s artwork is quite amazing and it usually tells a story.

It’s difficult to see just how large it is until you have someone stand inside – amazing! I love the way each piece of artwork stands out against that beautiful blue sky.

I’m glad I took a few pictures with my assistant inside. He was willing to pose. Although I moved from southern Alberta 24 years ago, that brilliant blue sky will always mean home to me. Medicine Hat has more sunny days than any other major city in Canada. The blue sky is a perfect background for the wonderful art work.

What a wonderful construction and a great idea to have the hand painted storyboards. Medicine Hat is a very unusual name for a place, I’ve wondered before how it came to have its name.

The name comes from the First Nation’s word Saamis which roughly translated means the place of the Medicine Man’s hat. There are a number of versions of the legend. Perhaps I will post a couple in the near future.

[…] and here’s is a nice surprise contributed by Darlene Foster @ Darlene Foster’s Blog, a children’s author from Vancouver, British Columbia, CA and a friend of […]

Interesting. I too have been to MH and have never taken the time to give the tepee a closer look. Thank you for doing it for me.

I’m glad you enjoyed visiting the Tepee with me. Perhaps one day we can check it out together. I have since learned that it sits on the top, of a buffalo jump so it is a sacred place.

What a treasure! Isn’t it funny how we drive by some places on a regular basis, but don’t give them much attention?

I know, it happens to me a lot. And then when I do finally investigate, I’m always amazed and wish I had done so sooner.

Darlene, how nice that your ‘assistant’ helped encourage you to see this interesting cultural spot. Your post also reminds me of how much I have left to explore in Canada and the U.S.

Thanks Tricia. There is so much to see and do. Trust a twelve year old to encourage you to see the lesser known places.

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