Tully's tipi

Date: Sun, 26 Sept. 1999 00:02:43 -0400
From: tully 
To: deep-ecology list
Subject: Re: ecological housing
At 06:27 PM 9/20/99 -0700, Eric wrote:
>Tully, tell us more about your teepee.
The tipi cover when laid flat forms a semicircle and a cone when erected, that is a little steeper in the back than in the front, to assist with chimney air flow. The door faces east (leeward of prevailing winds in North America), with smoke flaps adjusted by thin poles that point them in the best direction to filter the smoke away. To setup a tipi, most tribes used a tripod arrangement for the initial laying of the poles, though some tribes were known to use four poles for this initial setup. The poles are lashed together using a special arrangement of loops with the remainder of this line left dangling to tie the tipi down inside after it is setup. The intial setup is propped into place and the remaining main poles setup in a special way to create a beautiful whorl pattern at the crossover point. The last (usually 15th pole) is tied to the pole at the place in the back where the smoke flaps emanate, the pole is lifted into place and the tipi cover wrapped around the poles and "pinned" together at the front using dowel like pieces of wood that lace the two holes on one side of the overlap to the two holes on the other side. The final thin poles are then positioned to point into the top outward part of the smoke flaps and arranged to touch the ground at the back of the tipi. The main poles are then each lifted and pushed out to form a tight fit of the covering. The liner is then tied at the top (about 4 feet off the ground at the top, and draped to the ground and curved inward at the ground to be overlapped with the ground cover cloths and rugs. The fire is placed a little more toward the back of the tipi than dead center, which along with the steeper back, allows for better smoke clearance. The tipi is painted in special ways to bespeak of its occupants, their families, achievements, or identifications. The evolution of the tipi has occurred over thousands of years and its design cannot be improved on.

Before the horse arrived in the Americas, dogs were used to carry the belongings when the tribe moved to follow the buffalo and emerging plants they used. Two poles could be pulled by a dog in a drag arrangement, with the belongings tied to the poles in what the French called a "travois." As the poles wore out, new ones were cut from the lodgepole pines prevalent in the the hillier parts of the plains. The poles were cut in the spring, just after the sap rose in them, which allowed the poles to be more easily peeled of their bark. This peeling was critical to allow any water that made its way into the tipi to drain down the poles and harmlessly out of the dwelling. Two special tiny sticks are used under any ties to the pole to redirect any draining water and not allow it to drip straight down at that point.

It seems to me that the traditional placement of objects and people within the tipi has some principles in common with the feng shui arts of the far east. Its hard to feel unaffected somehow by being within any round structure, whether it is tipi, yurt, kiva, or hogan. So much rich spirituality revolves around the idea of the circle and the feeling is almost tangible in such spaces. The artist in me longs to leave this square building with its severe corner blockages and into the horizontal and vertical flowing-ness of such a beautiful and functional round lodge that feels alive and communicative in its own right. The engineer in me is simply in awe of the functionality of its unequalled design.


 From the soul perspective, meaning is less important than meaningfulness.
    ---Thomas Moore

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