The Tipi

The nomadic lifestyle of the People of the Plains required portable dwellings. The tipi was an ideal shelter as it was warm in winter and cool in summer. Tipis were waterproof and could also withstand the roughest weather. Furthermore, they were quick to set up and take down.

Plains Nations' beliefs were evident in the design of the tipi. The tall cone-like structure allowed diffused light to fill the interior providing a space for the spirit to soar. The circular floor plan replicated the cycles of nature: the earth, the sky, the seasons and life itself.

The women of the tribe made, owned and erected the tipis. The original tipis were made from all natural materials; the poles from long, slender peeled lodge pole pine trees and the cover from hides.

Because the women owned the tipis, the men had to get their wife's consent to decorate the tipi cover. When relocating, the Plains Indians transported both the dwelling coverings and the poles used to support them. The poles were highly valued, as replacements were not readily available on the prairies.

The hearth fire was built just behind the centre of the tipi. In some tribes, the head of the family had the location opposite the door flap reserved as a place of honour. Light-weight triangular backrests, made of willow and bound together with cord, made sitting more comfortable. Fur lined hides served as ground cover. Bags of food, tools, weapons and garments were hung inside from the pole framework.

Tipis are still used today by many people as temporary homes, in festivals, as accommodation at camps and lodges.There are small tipis that children can use for play.

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