Goals, Rationale, and Background Information
The Buffalo meant everything to the Plains Indians. "It was a forceful spirit that blessed the peoples with everything they needed to survive" (Mails 1972). As a result of the Buffalo being a transient animal and traveling in herds across miles of land the Plains Indians also became a nomadic people. The tipi was the ultimate dwelling for a transient people like the plains Indians. It enabled the Indians to stay warm in winter and cool in summer. Its design was sturdy and upright, yet was also very friendly in its assembly. Within an hour, two women could comfortably erect one into living quality.
The tipi consisted of a cover made of buffalo hides stitched together with sinew and stretched over a framework of poles. This framework was based around a tripod of extra strong poles that were tied together at the top. This support was then raised into position. Then, up to a dozen other poles were leaned against these support poles and tied at the top. Often a rawhide rope would run down from the top of the framework of the tipi. This would attach to an anchor peg, affixed to the ground inside the tipi.
The tipi framework was arranged in a cone shape. It was purposely asymmetrical, however. This asymmetry allowed for more headroom within the tipi, as well as permitting better ventilation as a result of an off-center smoke hole.
The hide covering was put in place by attaching it to a strong lifting pole and lifting it into position. Then the bottom edges would be pinned to the ground. Where the sides of the cover met eight lodge pins would act as a vertical seam. Next, the door flap would also be attached with a lodge pin. The final step in the assembly of the tipi was to insert two poles into the outer flaps of the smoke hole. These poles would stand on the outside of the tipi. These poles were adjusted to change the direction of the opening to compensate for wind direction or to close the hole in the event of rain or snow.
The completed tipi was about 15 feet in diameter. This provided ample living space for the Plains Indian family. The tipi was a place to be respected and a strict system of behavior governed its use. An open tipi flap was an invitation to enter. If the flap was closed, however, the visitor was to announce his presence and wait for the host to invite him inside. Upon entering the tipi a visitor would always go to the right. If invited to do so by the host, he would sit in the guest position to the left of the head of the family, who would sit at the rear.
Prior to the arrival of the horse on the plains, the tipi had to be smaller in size to be carried from place to place by the women and dogs. With the coming of the horse, however, this changed dramatically. One result was that lodge poles, which used to be only five to six feet high, now extended to an average of fifteen feet. By using three horses the dwelling could now be transported quite comfortably. Two horses would carry the many poles used in constructing the tipi while the third horse carried the heavy buffalo hide covering. By careful and precise folding, the large lodge covering could be reduced to a size that would fit nicely across a saddle. Now the portable home was ready to move on – to be remade in a new location. This unit will provide students with a variety of facets to Native American life (food, dance, writing, and survival...). This lesson will add to the many facets and will provide students with the opportunity to view the teepee in books and poster form, discuss its parts and purposes. Communicate why it is a functional structure and construct one of their own as they rely on the environment to provide for its parts.
Purpose and Objectives
Students will identify with the teepee as a logical and ingenious structure that provided the Plains Indians with shelter. They will analyze the teepee and its parts and make logical and coherent conclusions about its parts and their functions. They will decide what makes the teepee a good source of shelter, and what might make it a poor source of shelter. Students will then use their materials they collect from the hike at East Rock to construct a teepee on their own.
Structure and Outline
The Tipi (Native American Houses)
, poster of the teepee, chart paper, collected materials from the hike
two day project: day #1- teepee discussion, day #2- hike in woods and teepee construction.
whole class discussion experience, whole class hike, individual teepee building.
discuss, hike, and construct
facilitate, lead hike, explain and answer questions
1. Read book to students and then discuss pictures from book. Introduce teepee poster. Let student's view and discuss parts and functions of the teepee.
2. Chart reasons it provided the Native Americans with good shelter and poor shelter.
3. Explain to students they are going to be going on a hike to collect
materials from the "natural world" to make a teepee of their own tomorrow.
4. Talk about what kinds of materials students might want to collect.
5. Go on hike. While on hike ask question: What kinds of resources do you think you would like to use that may not be here now at this time of the year?
6. Construct teepees and have students share their designs with the class.
Assessment and Monitoring
Be attentive to students' ability to plan ahead and adapt themselves to the environment and its resources they might select to build their teepee. Assess students building skills and designs making sure they have vocalized reasons as to why their teepee is designed the way it is.
Reflections, Extensions, and Emergent Curriculum
The best part of this activity is the hike. Most students will be able to connect and dive right into the naturalistic setting. Using this activity as a model I will continually make and effort to visit the surrounding environment during all the seasons and as a class record what and how it has changed as the Plains Indians did as means of survival.