A conical skin-and-frame dwelling, the tipi was an easily moved yet substantial structure used by the nomadic Plains Aboriginal people.
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 with 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.