The Indians of the Great Plains

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s #MorrisMuseumLoanFriday here and to kick off the weekend, we are exploring one of the many boxes on Native Americans provided by the Morris Museum Loan.

Teepee, or tipi, is the Sioux name for the tent that was used as a home by the Indians of the Great Plains. It was used by all the varied tribes that took up nomadic pursuit of the buffalo, with the help of the White Man’s horse. Some of them had used similar tents before, but the possession of horses made it possible to move larger and heavier tents, some of which were made from as many as 20 buffalo hides sewn together.


To set up a teepee, three of the poles are lashed together toward the top, their lower ends spread and set firmly in the ground, leaving the entrance-opening toward the East. The other poles are spaced around in a circle, leaning against these three. Then the teepee cover is tied by its back thong to a free pole, and raised into position. The sides are brought forward and pinned together where they overlap at the front, and the lower edge is staked down all around. Two more poles are set in the “ears” of the teepee so that these flaps can be adjusted to the wind to keep the fire drawing well.

At one side of the teepee some women are hanging up strips of meat to dry in the sun. The buffalo skin is staked out on the ground to be scraped and tanned later.


A small horse is tethered nearby, harnessed to a “travois” made of teepee poles crossed at the horse’s shoulder with the ends dragging behind. It is loaded with a “parfleche” or rawhide case often used to store pemmican, made from the dried meat pounded with berries and fat, which was food for winter or for traveling. Smaller travois were used for dogs, and had been simply expanded to fit the horse.


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