The Look of the Historic Tipi Camp Set Up
or.... what you want
to see in a Historic 1840 to 1890 tipi camp.
Traditional tipis represent the era from around 1840
to about 1920. They can be from any tribe or area where hide or cloth tipis
were built. A cloth tipi was considered a status symbol because of the cost,
lightness of material, and increase in size of the lodge. This is the time
of the American Indian and his travels through the Great Plains into the
reservation period. The primary purpose was to live in
the tipi, not to show it off at a Wild
West show or trade fair. But when on dis≠play, the tipi was shown to
I wish to thank Ken Curtis, Kenny Weidman, Krista
Swanson for the use of their tipis/materials and Kathy Fleming for taking
What you might see in a
Historical/Traditional Tipi set up and camp.
- Cover is down to ground all the way around. If
not, wood, sticks, and wood boxes can cover the areas to prevent airflow.
- Set for weather. If hot, sides are up; if
cold, cover is down to the ground.
- No fitted liner of any type. Rectangular
muslin (beaded), calico cloth, robes, blankets, shawls, and leather liners
are attached at the top by
rope or pole (not attached at bottom in any way except by articles placed
on top of bottom under turn).
- Liner can be optional.
- Use of smoke-flap poles optional.
- No door poles out front. Smoke flaps can
be tied to pegs that hold the cover down or not at all.
- There can be some cloth, undecorated or
lightly decorated, and streamers on poles. There can be use of feathers or
- Pegs for holding down cover are pounded in
at an angle.
- Door can be blankets, rawhide, beaded
panels, fur hides, or framed cloth over wood sticks bent.
- One or two sets of backrests with buffalo
hides/blankets for beds.
- Built-up beds that are off the ground with
backrest for head and foot.
- Clothing and most material in rawhide parfleches
are pushed around inside the bottom of the tipi either holding lining in
place or not. Some items can be hanging inside or displayed in lodge. Not
- Cooking herbs hang from poles to the left as you
- Outside cooking area can be a covered brush
arbor or with blankets.
- Tripods, horse gear, and traveling items can be
stored outside along with childrenís toys.
- Inside/outside can be a mess or in some
disarray. No skulls unless this is a society or medicine lodge. Then it
needs to be set up in this manner with all decorations and materials.
Actual outside living area shown in
photo taken by George W. Scott, Fort Yates, late 1880s Sioux
Wife of Phil McCusker, interpreter,
Indian Territory 1875
What you do NOT want to find
in a traditional tipi.
1. Mandela's and dream catchers. Not part of a traditional tipi or camp.
Mandela's came out of the 1960's.
2. Lawn chairs.
3. Plank wood backrests.
4. Modern cooking equipment.
5. Leg bone lacing pins. Lacing pins were wood and not much bigger than a
#2 pencil in thickness.
6. Very decorated pegs.
7. Highly decorated streamers.
8. Cow or buffalo skulls or any skulls for that matter. The use of the
Buffalo skull is for the Sun Dance
ceremony and not usually an everyday item in or around a tipi.
These are ceremonial and not generally for
the public view.
9. Awning attached to the front of a tipi. This is a Buckskinner item that
has just come around in the last 20
years or so.
10. Any modern materials. Very interpretive area.
11. Large rawhide boxes. The Sioux were the only ones who had the boxes and
those came around in the
1870's or so. Sizes were about 15"x15"x18" or so.
There were some other type boxes, but they are special
folded rawhide in the shape of a box. Very rare.
12. Large wrought iron cook sets inside the tipi. Remember, you are cooking
in your bedroom/living room, so think about it.
13. Lots of items hanging around the tipi. If you want to impress the
neighbors...OK...but if you are portraying a nomadic camp,
all material is in containers ready for the
These are only here to make you think. Do your own research. Be sure they
are first person. That means,
original material, not a copy or hear say. There are exceptions to every
rule, but donít make the exception, the rule!