The Tipi has been constantly evolving over the last 500 years, but still bears a remarkably close resemblance to it’s earliest predecessor - the Wigwam.
Originally, the Wigwam would have provided shelter for the families of the American Indians, being made from an arrangement of wooden poles providing a structure and wood, bark, moss and leaves being used to weather the roof and sides. Such structures were high maintenance and not hugely satisfactory to shelter it’s occupants against the weather of the American plains, and because of their structure, could not be be moved with regularity.
When Buffalo skins were utilised as a new covering for the outside, the wigwam made a giant step not only for it’s improved windproof structure, but also for the mobility of their inhabitants who now could be migratory hunters, making seasonal journeys following game and buffalo, and a means by which to trade.
These skin tents were noted in European records in the earlier half of the Sixteenth century, and because of their versatility, the design was copied from one tribe to another, each adding their own personal improvements, and spread further across the country. The advent of horses from around 1650 onwards made the distances they could cover on their journeys that much greater, and so the Tipi spread too, with each tribe making distinguishable design variations, ranging from the profile of the main structure, to the shape and size of the smoke flaps and door.
Canvas eventually replaced buffalo hide as it became available, and designs evolved to allow for the properties of the new material - canvas growing tighter with moisture instead of slacker, and not being being pegged directly through the hide but peg loops being added to keep the main canvas pegged to the ground.
The tipi is built around 15 poles. They are from individually cut trees, trimmed, peeled and seasoned for 6 weeks. They are then planed smooth and given a new life – the largest three of the group become the tripod poles - the main poles around which the rest of the tipi is built. These poles are 25 feet long.
As the rest of the poles are leaned into the others and the distinctive profile is formed, the last pole having the canvas attached which is then unfurled like an overcoat around the frame.
The front is fastened by the lacing pins, and another two poles on the outside are inserted into two loops in the canvas smoke flaps and are used to open or close the flaps which increase or decrease the size of the hole at the front to allow any smoke to escape.
The canvas is produced on English Looms, and is of the thicker 15oz weight. It is fire retardant, mould resistant and weatherproofed. If taken good care of our Tipis will last many years.
The poles are adjusted to tension the canvas, which is then pegged out with hand cleft ash pegs.
The inner lining (Dewcloth) is of lighter canvas and acts as a second skin inside the poles allowing a movement of air from the outside for ventilation, also allowing any camp fire to draw . It also tucks under the flooring at the edge eliminating any gaps.