Forms - Tipi
tipi was an ideal dwelling for the Plains people. Like
the buffalo they hunted, these Indians were constantly
on the move. Their dwellings, therefore, had to be readily
transportable. A tipi presented no problems. To move it,
the ends of two of the tipi supporting poles were lashed
to a horse. The other ends dragged along the ground thus
forming a roughly triangular frame, a travois, on which
the buffalo covering and the family's other possessions,
the new campsite several long poles were bound together
near their tops. The poles were then stood up and slanted
outward from the center to form the outline of a cone.
Other poles were leaned against this framework to strength
it, and a buffalo-hide covering, usually of 8 - 20 skins,
was draped over the skeleton. The covering was joined
near the top with wooden lodge pins. An opening was left
at the very top as a smoke hole; the entrance, with closeable
flaps, was at the lower part of this seam.
hot weather, when cooling breezes were wanted, the flaps
were left open and the lower part of the tipi covering
was rolled up, permitting the air to circulate freely.
In winter an additional skin lining was added to the tipi
covering, thus providing insulation. The fire that burned
in the center of the floor kept the tipi warm as well
as furnishing heat for cooking.
of the strong, prevailing winds that swept across the
Plains from the west, a tipi was always set up with the
entrance facing east. And the entire shelter was always
tilted slightly toward the east to streamline the rear,
thus lessening the wind pressure on it.
typical tipi was crowded with hide bedding, a rug for
the baby, willow-rod backrests, cradleboard, a suspended
cooking bag, a supply of fuel, parfleches containing food,
medicine and other necessities, and similar household
On the insulating lining of the tipi were hung sacred
objects, weapons, shields and other items. This lining
was often painted with brilliantly colored designs that
recalled past events in the lives of those who inhabited
The Plains natives had a deep appreciation for the tipi.
Secure, mobile and comfortable, it was looked upon by
these nomadic hunter as a good mother who sheltered and
protected her children.
1. Tipi Poles. Three or four make the basic framework
of the tipi. Long poles are prized where tall, straight
trees are scarce. Some poles become the framework of the
travois when traveling.
2. Quiver with arrows - arrows are striped with paint
to mark ownership.
3. Medicine Bag - special parfleches for sacred items
that represent things seen in the owner's visions.
4. Tipi lining - additional layer of skin, often brightly
5. Parfleches - are the closets and drawers of the tipi.
6. Buffalo-skin bedding - is rolled and stored during
7. Altar - for burning sweetgrass or other incense during
8. Smoky flaps - can be adjusted to retain heat or to
9. Wooden lodge pins - care removed to fold the Tipi for
10. Wooden bow - is shaped by heating and beading. Bowstrings
are made of sinew, rawhide or twisted vegetable fiber.
11. Shield - some battle shields are painted with pictures
from visions, which offer spiritual protection. Highly
decorated ones are too sacred for battle and can also
endanger the bearer by calling special attention to his
12. Backrest - the Plains family's easy chair.
13. Cradleboard - holds the fur-wrapped infant securely.
14. Woman's sewing bag - hide pouch holds awls, sinew
thread, beads, quills, grasses, paints, small bones and