Structure 3-4

By Maya, Audrey, Shira, and Liana

Our topic is about plains Indians structures and what kinds of homes they lived in, how they made them, what they made them out of, and the types of designs were on the homes.


Our topic is about Plains Indians, and the structures they built. What types of homes did they live in? Hmmm? What were these homes called? What did they look like? How did they make them? Were they decorative? Were they designs on them? Are you curious? We looked through books and a lot of different internet sources just to answer these questions. So sit back, relax, and enjoy!

The Tipi

The tipi was made to give warmth, safety, comfort, beauty, and luxury to the Dakota Indians.  The tipis also were made to keep the fierce winds, storms, snow, and scorching sun out.  Going from the inside out were wood frames arranged into a tall cone shape, giving it its basic shape. An average number of sticks it took to build a tipi was fifteen poles.  Next, there was a cover of thick buffalo hides.  In the center of the tipi you would find a fire.  The fire gave the tipi warmth and light.  It was very important to build the tipi in a perfect cone shape so that all of the sticks could be supported at the top, and so that the smoke from the fire could easily slip through the top. The bigger the tipi was, the harder it was to build.  Normally the tipis were made by women.  The women built basic furniture for inside and did most of the housework there, while the men went out hunting for the next meal.  Tipis were the typical homes of Dakota Indians so they found it important for them to decorate the outside.  Normally with paint, the women decorated it with scenes of hunts.  Since most of the Indians needed to move around quite a bit, it was very important for women to know how to build a good, strong tipi. The tipis were very important to many American Indians.

Designs of the Tipi

There were many symbols used to decorate American Indian homes. Some of the symbols used on American Indian structures, such as tipis, were the moon and the sun. A painted crescent represented the moon, and a painted circle would represent the sun. There were circles or diamonds on a solid background, which represented stars.  A maltese cross stood for the morning star, which was believed to bring powerful dreams. A row of triangles from the bottom band around the tipi represented hills or mountains. Half-ovals were rocks. Thunderbirds represented lighting. Animals were frequently painted as well. Symbols were simple ways to decorate an American Indian home.

Other basic facts of the Tipi

            The Plains Indians often lived in tipis because they can be moved easily and set up quickly. This was important for the Plains Indians because they lived off the great herds of bison that traveled frequently to find new grazing places. Tipis could be setup by two women in about fifteen minutes. They were made of multiple poles made of a lightwood (an animal skin cover made of mostly buffalo), and many pegs. The poles had to be replaced every 2 or so years and tribes would travel far to locate good poles. Tipis were not exactly cone-shaped, but they were close. The cone was used because it was hard to blow over and easy to setup. Smoke holes were made with a flap that could be shifted so it blocked out any wind, rain or snow. Tipis were very useful and common homes.



Wigwams are oval shaped structures designed for living in. They were extremely convenient for Native Americans because they could be moved and still used again. The frame of a wigwam was made out of wooden sticks. It was covered with animal skins or woven mats. Wigwams are like modern homes in that they have a fire pit and a smoke hole. The smoke hole is for keeping smoke out of the wigwam, just like a chimney. They were not very complex and very useful.




Works Cited
American Indian Literature and Cultures. 17 Oct. 2007 <
American Indian Literature and Cultures. 17 Oct. 2007 <
Jaeger, Ellsworth. "Plains Indian Tipi." Shelter Online. 12 Oct. 2007 <
Miers, Earl Schenck. Indians of the Northern Plains. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969.
Quilt show. 16 Oct. 2007 <>.
Tipis. 2007. 11 Oct. 2007 <
Wigwam - Nipmuc Indians / Native Americans. 17 Oct. 2007 <
Yue, David, and Charlotte Yue. The Tipi a Center of Native American Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf,