Putting Up A Tipi

I’d like to say I know how to put up a tipi after this past week. Let’s just say I’ve got a general idea of how it needs to be done. We watched one go up at River Camp behind the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, MT. There were a few struggles but all in all, it’s pretty amazing to see it going up.

There were some center poles in place when we arrived and I’d compare these to support beams for a house. Summer interns at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center were learning this task and trying their hardest to make it look easy. Additional poles were placed strategically and it began to take shape.

This was a canvas tipi, much lighter weight than one made from hides, but still heavy, bulky and awkward too. The canvas was gathered up and carried by several helpers, then walked around the poles. This sounds so simple but there is a lot of canvas and some pretty tall tipi poles. On top are smoke flaps that can be opened or closed. Short sticks were used as latches to close the tipi.

This demonstration of life skills is one of many you can see at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center during summer months. Other skills to be presented include orienteering (I’ve never been good with a compass), learning about what’s in the water (bugs), making fire and more.

I’m not sure I can really say I know how to put up a tipi. One thing I know, it isn’t a job I could do alone. Maybe I’ll go back to learning how to use a compass.



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