A conical skin-and-frame dwelling, the tipi was an easily moved yet substantial structure used by the nomadic Plains Aboriginal people. Used historically and perhaps prehistorically, the tipi was 4-6 metres in diameter at the base, tapered upward to form a smokehole at the top. The frame was draped with a sewn cover of 8-12 buffalo skins arranged over as many as 20 poles. The tipi averaged 7-8 m in height, with the entrance commonly facing east. Tipis in the 19th century were often large enough to house several nuclear families, and were embellished with embroidered quillwork and paint. Women erected and dismantled these dwellings, and they specialized in cutting and sewing the buffalo robes so that they would fit the conical frame. Outside the Plains area and around the western Great Lakes, a dome-shaped dwelling called a wigwam in the Algonquian languages, was constructed with bent poles and covered with birch bark, skins or mats. Text excerpt found here.
See map for cultural regions of Canada and where you can find the Plains people territory. Map found on page 4 in The Kids book of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada by Diane Silvey
Tipi Building Instructions
- Did you know SD 71 Aboriginal Education has a tipi that you can bring to your school site?
- To book the tipi contact the Aboriginal Support Worker for your school.
- Logan from Highland School demonstrates how to put the tipi together for the Aboriginal Education Staff!