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Erecting Tipis, awe-inspiring structures

Having just erected the first of our four tipis for the summer season, we’re reminded of how inspiring these structures are. We invested in beautifully handmade sioux tipis for our site, with poles of Douglas fir, bark stripped, to create as authentic a structure as possible.

The way we erect them today isn’t that different to the past, we begin by creating a tripod out of the three largest, straightest and strongest poles and tying them tight near the top with a “clove hitch knot”. We raise the tripod with a rope and stretch the poles apart to form a triangular base on the ground. We add another 11 polls and lay them against the foundation tripod, creating an egg shaped circle with a base 6-7 meter wide.

The outer covering of an original tipi was made from animal hide and later on canvas, what we use. Believe it or not an average tipi required up to 30 Buffalo hides to wrap around. We most certainly wouldn’t use animal skin. Even then the hides were a difficult commodity to source and eventually the favoured choice became canvas. We tie the canvas on to a lifting pole and hoist this to the opposite side of the door poll. When aligned we unfold and wrap the canvas around the outside of the structure and join each side together with crafted willow pins through eyelets.

We secure the outer canvas to the ground, today we use a drill, eye bolts, steel pegs… wooden pegs, or heavy stones would have been used in earlier times. Similarly to the Great Plains, we in the Altiplano experience gusty winds but they are not a problem, we properly construct and secure the tipi so it’s extremely wind resistant thanks to its shape and anchoring.

In the summer months the tipis are surprisingly cool as air can flow under the canvas and the opening at the top vents the hot air away, allowing for a cooler indoor environment, which is great for sleeping.

They really are awe-inspiring structures and amazingly there’s evidence to suggest that tipis have been in use across the Great Plains of North America since prehistoric times. They are an important symbol of the lives and cultures of the indigenous people.

We love them!

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