Indian Tipi/Sioux Tipi

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Tents in which open fires can be lit for warmth have been known for hundreds of years. On the North American continent, the Plains Indians have developed different variations of the essentially conical style of tent, generally known as the tipi. The Indian tipi usually has a substantially circular base, and its height from base to apex is about the same as the base diameter. The traditional construction of an Indian tipi involves first erecting a plurality of poles with their lower ends spaced around a circle intended to define the base of the eventual tipi and their upper ends fastened together at the peak. Primarily, the tipi was a conical tent covered with dressed buffalo skins. Everywhere the tipi was made, cared for, and set up by the women. First, a conical framework of long slender poles was erected and the cover raised into place. Then the edges of the cover were staked down and the poles supporting the "ears" put in place. The "ears" are wings, or flies, to keep the wind out of the smoke hole at the top; they were moved about by the outside poles. The fire was built near the center and the beds spread upon the ground around the sides. The head of the family usually sat near the rear, or facing the door.

The "skin" of the tipi, when laid flat on the ground, is generally semi-circular in shape, and includes two smoke flaps extending from the middle area of the side corresponding to the diameter of the semicircle. These smoke flaps, when the tent is wrapped around the erected poles, take up a position in which they extend downwardly from the tipi peak on either side of an opening through which smoke is evacuated from the interior of the tipi. In the traditional construction of the tipi, the smoke flaps are held in a taut condition by flap poles of which the top ends engage the smoke flaps and the bottom ends are dug into the ground. The flap poles bear inwardly against the side of the tent, and are resisted by the support poles inside the tipi.

The entrance to the tipi is directly beneath the smoke flap, and the tipi is always erected so that the entrance and the smoke hole are directed away from the prevailing wind. In order to achieve a good draught so that the smoke from the interior fire will exit through the smoke hole, the traditional tipi is at least 12 feet high, and often as much as 18 or 20 feet in height.