Before the Spanish reintroduced the horse to the New World, these hide-covered shelters of the Plains Indians were seldom more than five to six feet high, because of the difficulty of transporting them from one encampment to the next. (The Plains Indians carried tipis, like all their goods, on travois, an A-shaped frame dragged by a person or dog.)
With horses, it became possible to transport larger tipis, and they grew. A typical tipi might be 12 to 15 feet high, made of a dozen or so poles 20 to 25 feet long. The tipi of a wealthy chief might be 30 feet high with 30 poles. The poles came from lodgepole pines growing in the Rocky Mountains, which is how the tree got its name.
Gladys Laubin, Stanley Vestal and Reginald Laubin.
The Indian Tipi: Its History, Construction and Use. 2nd ed.
University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.
On the Origin of Tepees.
Free Press, 2011.
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Last revised: 21 March 2000.