When we purchased our two tipis, they came with specific directions (which I am copying here for you, minus the drawings that the directions refer to).
After reading the directions, SEVERAL times, we were still scratching our heads…and totally amazed at how the women of the tribe were responsible for erecting and taking down their family tipi each and every time the tribe moved. I KNOW they didn’t have written instructions and if they did, it HAD to be simpler than THIS!
Fortunately, we knew of a man who attended a lot of Rendezvous and had his own tipi. He was more than willing to assist us. It was quite a learning experience…one that we knew we couldn’t possibly remember the details of.
Tipi’s can be left up year round, but we decided we’d take ours down each fall and put them up again the next year…fortunately, this man was still around the following year! Again, HOW DID these Native American women do this??? ALL ALONE???
YOU read the directions and see if it all comes together for you. The next story will be about how to TAKE IT DOWN and also will include WHY the tipis didn’t prove to be as popular as we had hoped they would be (lots of people stop and took photos though!)
ERECTING A TIPI:
When the tipi is erected, it forms a cone shape; and the straight edges, where the smoke flaps are sewed, overlap and are held together with wooden pins. It is here that this detail should be noted. If you follow the drawing closely, you will see that one side of the straight edge has an extra strip of canvas sewed to it for this overlap (C). A double row of holes is punched along the straight edge at (C) and (D). The edge at (D) will be under the overlapping (C) edge, and the row of holes will be a trifle wider apart than (C). These holes should be reinforced with a buttonhole stitch or metal grommets inserted.
A half-circle door opening (E) is cut at both ends so that when the edges are brought together a complete circular door opening will result. The door itself is. made of a round piece of canvas with additions to be turned in and hemmed (F). When the hem is completed, a flexible willow stick is inserted, making a firm door (G). A rope-loop is tied to the top of the willow stick, and is hung upon the pin just above the door and forms the hinge (H).
Little pockets are made of three-cornered pieces of canvas and sewed to the tips of the smoke flaps (B). Reinforcing pieces of canvas (X) should be sewed to parts where extra strain is expected, especially around the smoke flaps and the center of the cover, which is lashed to the top of the poles (l).
A rope is hemmed around the circular base, and rope loops for pegging down the tipi are equally spaced around it (J). A rope is attached at (I) which lashes the cover to the poles.
Twelve or more poles are needed for the tipi framework. These should be straight and smooth, and at least 3 feet longer than the width of the cover. If the tipi is 15 feet wide, the poles should be at least 18 feet long.
Three of the strongest poles are made into a tripod (K), tied together a little higher than the height of the cover. The rest of the poles are then placed against the tripod, forming the cone-shaped frame for the canvas cover. These are lashed together at the top with rope (L) . The last pole to be placed has the tipi cover fastened” to it, it is called the "Lift Pole" and should be placed opposite to where the door is to be (M).
The placement of the poles is very important. If poles are not placed correctly into the three crotches or "V's" formed by the tripod, the poles will stick out too far and make the overall crotch too large where the cover will not fit properly on the frame - requiring all the poles to be removed and reset. Save yourself some time and place them correctly to start.
The chart below show the order in which poles can be placed to provide the best arrangement to create the smallest finished crotch possible. However, even using this method placement does not always work out right. Therefore, after the first four poles are set into the tripod, constantly survey the pole placement and arrangement and take advantage of any small opening possible to slide a pole into.
After the tripod is setup, set number 1 to 4 poles into the crotch between the East Door Pole and the North Tripod Pole. Number 1 pole becomes a door pole. Then, set pole numbers 5 to 8 between the East Door Pole and the South Tripod Pole. Lastly, set Pole numbers 9 through 12 (or more as need) between the North and South Tripod poles while leaving an equal space between to later set the Lift Pole.
Securely tie the cover to the Lift Pole. The Lift Pole needs to be one of the strongest poles you have. With assistance, set the Lift Pole into place.
The cover is then pulled around the pole framework and fastened together at the overlap with wooden pins about a foot long, tapering at both ends (N). The bottom is pegged down, and the poles inside are spread to stretch the cover (0). Two additional light poles are needed for the smoke flaps, and these are inserted into the pockets of the flaps (P). The poles can be moved about to change the position of the smoke flaps so the smoke can be drawn from the tipi. The drawing (Q) shows how the air comes in at the base of the tipi and is drawn out at the smoke hole. The flaps act as a sort of chimney, creating a draught.
Hints for a Rainy Day
One of the annoyances of a tipi type of dwelling is that water may run down inside on the poles during a heavy rain. One way of preventing this is to use a “bull boat,” a circular piece of canvas placed on top of the poles.
Another method... fasten a long cord on each pole just under the top of the cover, tied so that the cord leads from the underside of the pole. About halfway down, these cords are gathered together with one leading to a tin can. Rain coming down the poles is stopped by the cords and led down into the can instead of continuing down the poles and eventually onto your bed.
- Cathy Clementz
- A long time ago, I was a child. (I started out as Cathy First from Colon, Mi.) For the past several years I’ve been an adult. A lot of things went on between those two stages of life; probably no more or no less than anyone elses. My husband and I moved to “da U .P” from southern Lower Michigan several years ago (yes we were trolls at one time). We owned and operated and operate Clementz’s Northcountry Campground and Cabins just north of Newberry, Michigan until May 2015. We have grown kids and grandkids (who all live downstate). My passion is life and all that Nature has to offer us and trying to photograph it in unique ways. Our intention in life is to see all that Nature has to offer us. We hope that you will be a part of our adventures as we cruise through our lives together. Come back often!