A tipi (also tepee and teepee) is a Lakota name for a conical tent traditionally made of animal skins and wooden poles used by the nomadic tribes and sedentary tribal dwellers (when hunting) of the Great Plains. Tipis are stereotypically associated with Native Americans in general but Native Americans from places other than the Great Plains mostly used different types of dwellings. The term "wigwam" (a domed structure) is sometimes incorrectly used to refer to a tipi. The tipi was durable, provided warmth and comfort in winter, was dry during heavy rains, and was cool in the heat of summer. Tipis could be disassembled and packed away quickly when a tribe decided to move and could be reconstructed quickly upon settling in a new area. This portability was important to Plains Indians with their nomadic lifestyle. Modern tipi covers are usually made of canvas. Contemporary users of tipis include historical reenactors, back-to-the-land devotees, and Native American families attending powwows or encampments who wish to preserve and pass on a part of their heritage and tradition. The word "tipi" comes into English from the Lakota language; the word thípi [ˈtʰipi] consists of two elements: the verb thí, meaning "to dwell", and a pluralising enclitic (a suffix-like ending that marks the subject of the verb as plural), pi, and means "they dwell". Lakota verbs can be used as nouns and this is the case with thípi, which in practice just means "dwelling". Contents [hide]
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A typical family tipi is a conical, portable structure with two adjustable smoke flaps, multiple poles (historically from 12 to 25 feet long), and a detachable cover over the structure. The cover historically used buffalo skins; an optional skin/cloth lining; and a canvas or bison calf skin (historically) door. There may also be an optional, partial interior ceiling, called an ozan in Lakota, that covers sleepers and protects them from rain.
Crow lodge interior, 1907, showing the poles and outer skin at the top, the inner lining and bedding. The lashing rope is tied off to a wooden stake at the bottom of the photograph. Clothing is suspended on a line tied between two of the tipi poles. Ropes (historically raw hide) and wooden pegs are required to bind the poles, close the cover, attach the lining and door, and anchor the resulting structure to the ground. Tipis are distinguished from other tents by two crucial innovations: the opening at the top and the smoke flaps, which allow the dweller to cook and heat themselves with an open fire, and the lining that is primarily used in the winter, which insulates while providing a source of fresh air to fire and dwellers. Tipis were designed to be easily set up or taken down to allow camps to be moved to follow game migrations, especially the bison. When dismantled the tipi poles were used to construct a dog- or later horse-pulled travois on which additional poles and tipi cover were placed. Tipi covers are made by sewing together strips of canvas or tanned bison hide (historically) and cutting out a semicircular shape from the resulting surface. Trimming this shape yields a door and the smoke flaps that allow the dwellers to control the chimney effect to expel smoke from their fires. Old style traditional linings were hides, blankets, and rectangular pieces of cloth hanging about four to five feet above the ground tied to the poles or a rope. Today's modern lining is the most difficult element to measure, since it consists of trapezoid-shaped strips of canvas assembled to form the shape of a truncated cone. The poles, made of peeled, polished and dried tapering saplings (historically pine), are cut to measure about six feet more than the radius of the cover. Historically the family tipi bison skin covers were richly painted and drawn upon, mostly with images of deeds of the owner or owners and of...
Examples of painted tipi covers, from Paul Goble’s book, Tipi: Home of the Nomadic Buffalo Hunters, 2007.
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