Great Plains Houses
Tipi (or Tepee)

The Great Sioux Nation (Lakota, Nakota and Dakota) were original inhabitants of the great plains and often lived in shelters called Tipis. The Sioux word tipi is formed from "ti", meaning to dwell or live, and "pi" meaning used for. The tipi is often confused with a wigwam, but a wigwam is a fixed shelter made from branches and bark or mats. The tipi was a portable home that suited the nomadic lifestyle of the plains.

Tipis were made of long, thin wooden poles and covered with buffalo hides. Depending on the size of the tipi, twelve to fifty buffalo hides may have been used to cover the tipi. Depending on the tribe, to form a tipi frame, three or four poles were pulled together and tied at the top. The poles were raised upright to form a cone shape. The cone shape of the tipi base represented the universe and the cycle of the seasons. Several poles were added to the frame to fill the gaps. The doorway often faced east toward the rising sun and was created where the cover came together. The pole frames, arranged in an oval, leaned toward the west with the narrowest dimension to the prevailing wind. With the westward lean, the harder the wind blew, the greater the pressure to push the tipi poles in the ground. For ventilation in the summer, the tipi cover could be raised. In the winter, for warmth, the base of the tipi was packed with snow or dirt to keep out cold draft. Also, extra linings of hides were added to the inside of the tipi. Long poles were used to open and close flaps at the top to regulate the temperature of the tipi, allow smoke to drift out of the tipi and to prevent rain and snow from entering.

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